'He can still be one of the boys'

NEWPORT BEACH — Julian Dunn, 7, did a warm-up dance in his living room Friday morning to his favorite song, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," by the '80s funk group the Gap Band.

Julian, who has been undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatment for an aggressive form of cancer, was gearing up for a special visit at his Newport Beach home. The Game Bus, a converted school bus filled with video game consoles and big-screen TVs, stopped by to treat Julian and his friends to an hour of fun.

Julian was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2008. After surgery and chemotherapy, doctors gave him an 85% chance of survival. Julian recovered and went to first grade — his first time in school — and loved it. But after a routine MRI screening last October, the Dunn family received a frightening phone call.

"We thought we'd beaten this," said Julian's father, Richard Dunn. "We thought it was over."

The cancer had come back, this time in the lower part of Julian's spine. Doctors downgraded his survival chances to 20%. Julian had to leave school right away and start more chemotherapy.

He is now in the middle of a 25-round course of radiation. He has lost his hair and some of his hearing, and has to get nutrition through a tube in his stomach.

Julian piled into the Game Bus with about 10 other first-grade boys. As the sounds of Xbox and Wii games filled the dark bus, Julian was in the zone, standing up and sticking his tongue out to focus on moving his character in a Lego "Indiana Jones" game.

The bus visit was a treat from Dale Frankhouse of Newport Beach, a family friend. Frankhouse started the business about a year and a half ago and takes the bus around to corporate and charity events.

"It's so Julian can be with his buds," Frankhouse said. "Even though he can't do anything physical, he can still be one of the boys."

In Julian's first-grade class at Mariners Christian School in Costa Mesa, the students kept Julian's books at his desk and wrote him letters every week throughout the year.

One classmate shaved his head to show his support.

Dawn Smith brought one of those classmates, her son Joel, to play in the Game Bus. She said the Dunn family is an inspiration to her; they show love and compassion through their trials.

"They're truly an example to everyone," she said. "You just look at them and hope that you could be a little bit like them if something like this happened to you."

Richard Dunn is a former Daily Pilot sports reporter who now owns a communications and grantwriting company. He said he and his wife, Andrea, and other son Nolan, 10, get through the struggle by having faith, staying positive and taking one day at a time. Their biggest inspiration comes from Julian himself, a "trooper and a wonderful spirit."

"He ministers to me," Richard Dunn said. "The things he's had to go through are unbelievable. If I am ever upset or bummed out about something, personal or business, I just think about what he's gone through and how he continues to carry a good spirit and sense of humor … If he can do that, the little things in life that get to us, we get over pretty quickly."

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