Thursday, January 9, 2014

JAN 9, 2014 - Audrey's Story : Her childhood battles against Cancer & a Dog Attack

          With the recent birth of my friend's miracle baby yesterday, it made me think about my own miracles with my daughter, Audrey.  In May of 2002, at age 2 and 1/2, she was diagnosed with a Stage 3 Wilm's Tumor which was growing in her left kidney.  

          I remember the day it happened like it was yesterday.  My friend Mike and I were getting ready to leave to get my oil changed and hit some thrift stores, when I noticed that there was a small bump protruding from Audrey's left side.  Me, really thinking nothing much of it was still getting her ready to leave with us and our planned out day.  I showed my mom, and she suggested that I swing by Passavant Hospital, just to have it checked up on.  I said okay, it was on the way anyway, and still didn't think it was anything to worry about.  Man was I wrong.

          We arrived at Passavant around 10am and they immediately took X-rays of Audrey's left side. After "analysis" from their radiologist, I was told that her spleen had ruptured and to take her directly to Children's Hospital of Pgh.   Now worried and panicked, we flew to Children's ER with X-rays in hand, and thoughts of fear flowing through both our minds.  I called my mom to have her meet us there and told her Passavant's theory.

         Children's hospital reviewed the X-rays and Passavant's original "diagnosis."  Mike and I were then instantly seperated, and questioned for almost 3 hours.  Over and over we were both asked if I was under any immense stress lately, and if I was angry with Audrey or a violent person in general.  Our answers were the same, NO, however the staff still continued to grill us. 

      Meanwhile, I have no idea where Audrey is at, or what her medical condition is.  They kept saying that a child's spleen is only ruptured upon intense contact with or by something.  In other words, I had hit her with a baseball bat, threw her down some stairs, or some other non-accident that would put her in grave danger.

       Three hours passed, and then my parents, I, and Mike were escorted into a small room for review of Audrey's condition.  At this point Mike and I were extremely angry, annoyed, and highly insulted by accusations from the staff, and just wanted to know what the hell was going on.  Dr. Barbara Gaines entered the room, shut the door and sat down.  She then states after doing a barium test, they found that Audrey had a tumor in her kidney, and what was believed to be her ruptured spleen was actually her kidney that pushed the spleen out of the way.
     She said that there was a softball sized tumor in Audrey's left kidney, and it had to be removed ASAP.  She continues on, saying in 2 days Audrey would have a left nephrectomy (removal of kidney), then start radiation.  The radiation would last  for 3 weeks every other day and done at Presbyterian hospital radiology department.  Once that was completed she would then start chemotherapy in the hospital and then contiunue at the clinic across the street.

      After being told this news, both Mike and my parents stared directly at me.  I was in shock.  I had no outward emotion, and just said "okay."  My parents cried and I just sat there, thinking... lets do this.  All the while there was never an apology from the staff to either Mike or I, which greatly pissed me off.  

     Audrey was immediately admitted, and her long journey began.  I remember calling my friend Brian, who lived in Chicago and was in the medical field.  I asked him if he had heard of this, and what her survival rate was.  He researched and got back to me,and talked to me for hours.  I can never repay him for that conversation that eased my mind even a little.  I called my boyfriend Brad at the time, who drove a truck for Werner Inc., and he immediately quit and came directly back to stay with me. 

         Audrey had her nephrectomy and stayed inpatient for the next 2 weeks.  She completed her outpatient radiation, and then an additional surgery for the inplantation of her mediport.  This was used for quick and easy access to her bloodstream when administering drugs, or drawing blood for white and red cell counts.  Once that was done she started chemotherapy back at Children's. 

      I decided once her hair started to fall out that it was better for them to just shave it, so they did.   A great friend Sousan of mine's husband Dean, owner of Dean of Shadyside Salon, did something magical for Audrey.  While in the hospital he had two of his wig makers personally come to the hospital, measure her head, let her pick out the color of hair, and made her a custom wig exactly for her as a gift.  She was elated and so excited that she would have hair again soon. :)

       There was so much support from friends and family I don't know what I would have done without them.  The chemotheraputic agents given to her were: Actinomycin, Doxorubicin, and Vincristine.  She continued treatment, but at almost 3 she wieghed 15.5 lbs.  My family and I decided that if she were to go to or under 15 lbs, we would stop treatment until she gained some of her weight back. She thankfully didn't, and continued treatment. 

       Her chemotherapy started on 5.8.2002, and ended on 11.20.2002.   Once completed we contiunued having abdominal CT's,  blood tests, chest X-rays, and followups done every 3 months to contunue monitoring any return or issues following treatment.  In 2003 she was considered in remission, and we were all incredibly thankful and relieved.
        We were happy again.  Unfortunately 6 months later on 6.1.2003 she was attacked by my parent's dog in the face.   She was taken to Children's yet again where she received over 300 stiches to her face.  


      This began another long journey for her.  She had multiple multiple visits to Children's ER for infections and reopening of stitches at her wound sites that I lost count.  She had 3 plastic surgery revisions done since, and the scars have healed as best as they can.  I, friends, and family don't see them at all anymore.

         Then on 5.3.2004, she had to have another surgery due to scar tissue formed from her original surgery causing a bowel obstruction.  We found ourselves again at Children's, inpatient for another 2 weeks.  They had to reopen her entire original scar that went from side to side across her stomach to fix it.  She healed up, and we again were grateful and relieved.

      She now is in Late Effects Treatment, which will continue her entire life.  Due to the chemotherapy drugs and radiation, she is at risk of many things.  These include: risk of infertility, cardiac toxicity and heart related issues, kidney damage to her remaining right kidney, dental abnormalities, and high cholesterol.   She is now under the care of Dr. Jean Tersak in the oncology department.  She has to get blood work done every other year for her entire life; a fasting lipids test and echo-cardiogram every 2 years, and only this year a chest X-ray and another pulmonary functions test. 

       We celebrated 10 years out at Roland's in the Strip together after her last follow up.  It was just her and I, and  was the best meal I've ever had with her.  

        After all she has been through in only her 14 years of life, Audrey is my true hero.