Few young people can claim to have distinctly felt the healing touch of God or to have survived major bouts of serious cancer. Fewer still can say they’ve launched a foundation meant to help other young cancer survivors as they struggle through their own medical battles.
Bryce Newman can claim all three. And he’s not yet 25 years old.
The young California Catholic man’s journey from cancer patient to cancer-free, from high school student to founder of a major charity, was an intensely difficult one, Newman told CNA. He was first diagnosed with cancer at 15 years old, on the cusp of what looked to be a thriving baseball career at a young age.
“I was coming off a good season,” he said. “I got invited to play for Team USA San Diego and we do an annual end-of-summer tournament in various host countries. This time it was Japan.”
“We were about a week away from our plane trip to Japan and I started getting these really bad headaches that caused me to miss a couple of practices, which I never did,” he said.
Medical scans subsequently revealed Newman was suffering from medulloblastoma, an aggressive and fast-growing form of brain cancer. At the same time he received this diagnosis, he was informed by his doctors that he would be undergoing emergency surgery in six hours.
His response? “Sew me up. I have a plane to catch. I’ve got to get back on the team with my teammates.”
Needless to say, Newman did not return to the field. His fight against the brain cancer, meanwhile, was arduous; it involved multiple surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, some of which left him wheelchair-bound.
‘The Miracle at Manchester’
With the prognosis looking poor, doctors advised Newman and his family to seek an experimental treatment in Florida.
“We got accepted to that trial,” Newman said. “We were packing our bags and someone at our high school called me up and asked if I wanted to meet with any friends.”
“To them it was more of a final goodbye,” he noted.
Upon arriving at Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, Newman was wheeled down to the school’s Manchester Stadium. There, he found the entire school of students, faculty, and staff waiting for him.
As depicted in a now-famous photograph, the entire assembly prayed over Newman. That was when, he said, he felt a divine effect running through him.
“I felt this warm sensation like when you take clothes out of the drier,” he said. “That was God healing me.”
The family subsequently traveled to Florida, where Newman underwent scans prior to the experimental treatment.
“When the doctors in San Diego received the results from the Florida scan back, there was no tumor,” he said. “It was gone.”
Foundation, movie arise from ‘miracle’ healing
Following Newman’s astonishing healing, he launched the Miracle at Manchester Foundation, named after the school prayer session that he says resulted in God’s healing his brain tumor.
The foundation says its mission is to “connect every hospitalized child with their friends, family, and school, enabling them to cope with the separation during long-term treatment for cancer.” The initiative works to distribute iPads to pediatric cancer patients to give them entertainment and stimulation during lengthy hospital stays.
Newman said the idea came after he spent long hours in hospital rooms during his cancer treatments.
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“I was one of the older ones in the hospital at the time,” Newman said. “I noticed how the TV channels there were meant to appeal to the younger patients. They didn’t really have any form of entertainment for older kids.”
“The other kids that I was with, that I became friends with, they didn’t have any forms of entertainment,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to be kind of given an iPad from my freshman year of high school, where we had to have them. I had a little side entertainment that a lot of other kids didn’t have.”
The foundation on its website says it has already partnered with several hospitals in order to distribute iPads at pediatric oncology wards. It solicits $450 donations in order to facilitate these efforts.
The foundation says it further works at “recruiting local volunteers to help us in our mission to support children” undergoing cancer treatments, including connecting with young patients and organizing celebrity visits for them.
The story’s inspiration has even reached Hollywood, with last year seeing the release of a major motion picture, “Miracle at Manchester,” starring Eddie McClintock and Dean Cain.
Richard Newman, Bryce’s father, said the charity has even brought with it its share of laughs. He relayed one story in which a little boy suffering from leukemia had been entertaining himself on his sister’s off-brand tablet when Bryce showed up with a brand-new iPad.
Upon being given the tablet, the boy asked in surprise: “This is all mine?”
“It sure is, little buddy,” Bryce responded.
“Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,” the youngster responded, “mine is bigger than my sister’s!”
“The entire room burst out laughing,” Richard Newman said.
In spite of the tremendous amount of work he’s undertaken after surviving cancer, Newman has adopted a humble attitude about his efforts, telling CNA he’s under no illusions about what he’s capable of doing.
“I’m not going to be the one to end cancer,” he admitted. “But I can help fight the boredom and the isolation that you have while in the hospital.”