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Let’s Beat Childhood Cancer, Because of Sofia

C

ancer never crossed our minds when we saw a small bruise on Sofia’s right eye lid. But on the morning of January 23, 2015, everything changed. Patrick and I took Sofia to All Children’s Hospital (ACH) for a CT scan of her eye and heard those words: “There is a tumor behind Sofia’s right eye and we thinks it’s cancer.” At that moment our world collapsed. “It can’t be cancer; my baby doesn’t have cancer!” I screamed. I cried in Patrick’s arms, “Why . . . Why her . . . Why us again . . .” We had already lost twin girls in 2010. Sofia was a precious gift. We couldn’t understand . . . and so began our awful nightmare. We were quickly admitted to 7 South, the Cancer and Blood Disorder Unit. I remember feeling like a zombie. My world had just flipped upside down. All I could do was cry, pray, and ask God to please watch over our baby as she endured scan after scan, test after test.

by Catalina Anderson

The first week was a complete blur while doctors ran tests to confirm Sofia’s neuroblastoma diagnosis. I didn’t eat, drink, or sleep. I wanted to wake up the next day from this awful nightmare and pretend it never happened. Sofia endured painful tests, scans, sleepless nights, nonstop poking and prodding. Sofia’s amazing nurse practitioner, Shari, wrote a schedule for us to keep track of everything that had to happen before treatment. Every day we marked items off. We are list makers and really appreciated that gesture. It gave us a little sense of control . . . since we had none. The end of the first week brought confirmation: Stage 4 High Risk Neuroblastoma. We learned the first course of treatment would be chemotherapy; and it was a very scary thought. Our baby would be pumped with poison. In my heart and mind I just “knew” Sofia wasn’t sick. She didn’t look or act sick. So it was really hard for us to deal with. We were so scared and tried not to think about the statistics for Stage 4 HR Neuroblastoma and its 60% survival rate.

We had unknowingly become comfortable at the hospital and the thought of leaving was actually scary. We didn’t want to leave the security of the nurses and the clean germ-free environment. But our family helped clean and disinfect everything at home, including the car, because the chemo weakened Sofia’s immunity and she was susceptible to infection. Still, she got a fever within a few days of being home; and we were back at the hospital. We didn’t know how long it would be, because she couldn’t leave until her white blood cell counts were higher and her fever was gone. We were learning our new life one experience at a time; and this time the hospital stay was 8 days.

different reaction. We joked that All Children’s Hospital was our “downtown condo” because we spent most of the first half of 2015 there. Thank God her tumors were small; they disappeared with the chemo, avoiding the need for surgery. Unfortunately, neuroblastoma was more stubborn in her bone marrow so, though the tumors were gone, Sophia still had about 5% marrow disease. Autologous bone marrow transplant and high-dose chemotherapy was Sofia’s next treatment, used to clear up the remaining disease in her bone marrow. On June 26, stem cells (immature blood cells) were removed from her blood and taken to Moffitt Cancer Cen-

Sofia endured a total of 6 rounds of chemotherapy between February and June, each using a different drug combination and having a

The first round of chemo, Sofia did pretty well: a little nauseous but nothing too scary. We were finally allowed to go home. It had been a long two long weeks at ACH.

18 • September 2016

Say you saw it in the Gulf Coast Family Newspaper

www.gulfcoastfamily.org

Gulf Coast Family - September 2016  

Gulf Coast Family's primary purpose is to encourage families along the Gulf Coast by providing worthwhile information that deals with family...

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