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Northeast Ohio 'Superman' battles cancer with fighter attitude

Posted at 8:29 AM, Sep 26, 2016

A Northeast Ohio man is being called a real-life superhero, fighting brain cancer with "super-strength."

"Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive." These are iconic superhero phrases that certainly apply to Andy Simon. He flew through a University Hospitals clinical trial and made a difference along the way.

Throughout his treatments, Simon dressed as the “Man of Steel,” complete with the red cape, iconic Superman emblem on his chest and Wonder Woman -– his wife, Amy -– by his side.

“It's just who I am,” Simon said.

NewsChannel 5’s Corrina Pysa joined the superhero team on the last day of his treatments. He was diagnosed last November with the deadliest form of brain cancer; glioblastoma multiforme grade 4.

“I still can't process it, because I still think back and I don't feel like I have anything,” explained Simon. “You know, I can feel the scars, you know, the bumps on my head. But it didn't register to me. I never thought oh my God, how much time do I have? That never was a thought.”

Lying in a hospital bed getting his very last treatment, Simon called the moment “bittersweet.”

“Only because the staff here is almost like family. They've made it that way. I'm glad it's done with and it's gone… I hope it's gone. But it's just an odd feeling, that I won't have to come here for chemo treatments anymore.”

Andy's treatments are part of a clinical trial -- the most complicated trial going at UH. After his tumor was removed, he went through radiation. That was followed by chemotherapy.

But what makes this different from traditional treatments is that the chemo is combined with another drug that makes it more effective. It is so powerful, though, that the bone marrow can't take it. So, the stem cells are removed from the blood and then genetically modified to make the bone marrow resistant to side effects.

As for the “Superman” nickname, Simon has earned it. Especially when you consider he's been going through these treatments all while working a full-time job, running races and even being there for his son's wedding and daughter's graduation.

“This is exactly what we're aiming for,” noted Dr. Lisa Rogers, medical director of the UH Neurological Program. “That we've delivered a very effective treatment to someone with a brain tumor, and he's been able to tolerate the treatments very well. He's led a full and active life, and now he's going back out into the world to continue with that very active and fulfilling life. This is what it's all about.”

Through it all, Simon maintained a fighter’s attitude.

“We just have to kick it’s a**,” he said, referring to how he reacted to his diagnosis. “Pardon my French. And we've been doing that every day since.”

Behind him, a group of about 50 family members and friends, forming Team Simon Strong. Together, they've raised more than $12,000 for the fight against brain cancer. Simon says that support -- and keeping a positive attitude -- has made all the difference.

“I've never been challenged before like this, and I had no option. I had to go forward and beat this, and I'm just going to continue to beat it. That's just my message. You've got to beat it.”