June 27, 2023

Comforting, personalized care for a kiddo with cancer

Carter Shaver from Portland, Oregon, shares his optimistic smile after the successful removal of a cancerous tumor.

A caring team provides kid-friendly visits for a charismatic Oregon 8-year-old who faced cancer with a courageous smile.

Meet Carter Shaver. He likes Spider-Man, Justin Bieber, Skittles, and the Portland Trail Blazers. He likes golf and basketball. Best friends: his grandmother, and cousin, Easton. He is currently training for a career in the NBA. Carter is 8 years old.

In 2022, Carter, who is from Portland, Oregon, was diagnosed with a rare and serious form of bone cancer called chordoma. In the summer of 2021, in an operation that took 30 hours, surgeons removed a large tumor near his adenoids in the back of his throat. That was followed by 7 weeks of radiation, 5 days a week.

Not fun. Not fun at all.

But the team at Kaiser Permanente Interstate Radiation Oncology Center knows how to take care of its pediatric patients. Suddenly, Carter had a whole bunch of new friends.

“They made me feel like he was someone they cared about,” said Stephanie Keese, Carter’s mom. “They loved him like I love him.”


Radiation therapist Amanda Kahoe created a special Spider-Man radiation mask for Carter to use during treatment.

Comfort and connection

Carter connected well with his radiation therapist, Amanda Kahoe, who prepared him for treatments, fitting him with a special Spider-Man radiation mask. After treatment, she led him to his own personal treasure chest, where he could choose from prizes that had been purchased especially for him by the radiation oncology team.

During every visit, the team played his favorite music. And each day, Joylene Hollis, a radiation oncology assistant, took a selfie with him. She put them all in a book and gave them to Carter when his treatment ended.

“They were really nice,” Carter said. “It would cheer me up.”

Carter, in return, rewarded his new friends with optimism and joy. Everyone knew Carter Shaver, the charismatic kid who zoomed through the office like he owned the place, high-fiving the care team and charming the other patients.

Early discovery and treatment

When Stephanie Keese and his dad, Zach, brought Carter in for a tonsillectomy in May 2022, doctors discovered the tumor, which was pressing against his carotid arteries, spinal cord, and brainstem.

Three months after his tonsillectomy, Carter came back for the second surgery to remove the tumor. After the long operation, he was placed in a halo brace for several months due to instability in his neck.

Radiation treatments continued until early January 2022 and Carter’s latest checkup showed no evidence of disease.

Carter’s recovery was aided by his good attitude. “Kids his age don’t grasp the existential fear of cancer like adults and can recover more quickly,” said Tasha McDonald, MD, the chief of radiation oncology for Kaiser Permanente in Portland.

The kid-friendly setting left Carter looking forward to his visits, even when he wasn’t feeling his best.

“It was a pleasure to care for Carter,” Dr. McDonald said. “With the support of our team, his treatment journey was almost an enjoyable adventure. And he infused happiness to our department and patients every day.”