Five-year-old Bruce suffers from a rare, aggressive and incurable brain cancer called Diffuse Instrinsic Pontine Glioma.

Meghan Overdeep
February 1, 2018
University of Kentucky

On Tuesday, five-year-old Bruce wrapped up his daily radiation treatments at University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center with a surprise appearance from his favorite people: Darth Vader, a handful of stormtroopers and Kylo Ren.

Bruce, a happy, Star Wars-obsessed boy, suffers from a rare, aggressive and incurable brain cancer called Diffuse Instrinsic Pontine Glioma. He was diagnosed just after Thanksgiving, when his mother noticed he was slurring his words and had double vision.

“It was such a horrifying shock,” Bruce’s mom, Robin Dodd, told Lexington Herald-Leader of his diagnosis. “I’m a nurse and I had never even heard of this cancer.”

The only thing known to slow the course of this disease is daily radiation. Bruce started treatment at UK immediately.

“It’s just such an unfortunate set of mutations in this child at this time,” Dodd noted. “Basically the advice a lot of families are given is to do the radiation and go home and make memories. After six months, it comes back and no longer responds to treatment.”

Now, emerging from his treatment room with his lightsaber in one hand and a gold trophy reading “Bruce, Last Treatment, Jan. 30, 2018” in the other, Bruce spotted Vader—all seven feet of him—breathing heavily by the door. He smiled as they shook hands. “Want to come home with me?” Bruce asked.

University of Kentucky

Vader and the other Star Wars characters are members of the 501st Legion, a national Star Wars costuming group that does pediatric charity events.

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After six weeks of radiation Bruce’s coordination and speech have improved, and for now, at least, he can enjoy a break from the hospital.

“We’re going to leave no stone unturned to get Bruce the best treatment we can,” Dodd told the Herald-Leader. “Before this happened we considered ourselves private people, but we want to raise awareness for this rare and mostly unknown disease that affects young kids and kills 100 percent of the time.”

Fresh off meeting his heroes, Bruce found his 11-year-old brother Jack and gave him a big hug. “This was the greatest present ever,” he told him.