For us, it started with an ear infection.
A few days into antibiotics, Mary Tipton developed high fever, nausea, vomiting and pain on her left side. Our pediatrician sent us to CHOA-Scottish Rite to have Mary Tipton checked for appendicitis or a virus. During an ultrasound to examine MT's appendix the technician noticed an abnormality on her ovary. Our reaction? She is EIGHT - how can she have something wrong with her little ovary?
The ER doctor suspected a twisted ovary that could be corrected with a 30-minute laparoscopic surgery. Three hours and a rather large incision later the surgeon told us she found a tumor and had to remove Mary Tipton's ovary along with it. Pathology confirmed the mass was ovarian dysgerminoma, an aggressive but treatable ovarian germ cell tumor. The next day, we met with oncology to discuss treatment options.
Three daughters in eight years, and this was our first trip to the ER. We were terrified.
Mary Tipton did not even know what an ovary is. Our sweet girl has gained quite an education this year -- learning about chemo, port accesses, blood counts, tumor marker tests, CT scans and so many other topics an eight-year-old should not have to worry about.
The night before we checked into the hospital for port implant surgery and her first round of chemo, Mary Tipton said to me, "Mama, I feel like I am too little for this to happen to me." It shattered my already broken heart.
Our Mary Tipton endured three rounds of chemotherapy, each of which required a six-day hospital stay at Scottish Rite, where she received exceptional care.
Sadly, that is a fairly minor treatment compared to many of our friends in the childhood cancer community.
The three chemo drugs that were given to our child were developed for adults.
In pediatric oncology, many chemotherapy drugs are decades older than the kids they are used to treat. These drugs cause horrific side effects and can even lead to secondary cancers. There must be a better way.
Mary Tipton is currently cancer-free and has had three sets of beautiful clear scans since she finished treatment. We are so thankful our baby is still with us. We are determined to fight childhood cancer as long as we live.