Sammy has always been a happy, curious, bright child. Reading was her favorite past time. When she was 15 years old, reading became difficult when she began to have crushing headaches combined with severe nausea almost every morning. Our family doctor diagnosed them as Migraine headaches and prescribed a migraine medication for the pain. The medication gave Sammy some relief, however, it never took the headaches away entirely. Two weeks later the doctor recommended a different medication and an MRI “Just to rule things out.” We are so very grateful that he ordered the test. Four hours after the MRI the doctor’s office called and told us Sammy had a brain tumor and to take her to Seattle Children’s Hospital immediately. Another MRI revealed that the tumor had spread to her spine.
On October 29, 2009 Sammy’s life changed forever. She was diagnosed with stage 3 Anaplastic Metastatic Medulloblastoma. Her treatment plan included surgical removal of the brain tumor, six weeks of daily radiation with chemotherapy followed by six rounds of monthly chemotherapy. Her treatment plan was part of a study by Dr. Jim Olson’s lab at Seattle Children’s Hospital. Sammy’s tumor responded well to the treatment. Sammy however was knocked down by it. She had severe radiation burns on her back and neck. She was extremely nauseous and frequently sick.
Sammy entered the hospital for the first round of chemo at the end of February 2010. All went well at the hospital. By the following Sunday she had developed excruciating pain in her lower left leg. Once again we returned to Children’s. Exploratory surgery revealed that she had developed a Necrotizing Fasciitis infection (flesh eating infection). She was open to infection due to a severely compromised immune system caused by her first round of chemo.
Sammy endured 10 operations, 9 days in the ICU, countless doses of antibiotics, several blood transfusions and a total of 6 weeks in the hospital. Thankfully she did not develop any other infections and completed her treatment in August 2010. Sammy suffers from several side effects from her treatment including hormone deficiencies, hypothyroidism, memory lapses, difficulty reading, difficulty driving, and impaired balance. Rehab on her leg has been slow and arduous also.
Sammy was able to participate at the 2nd Run of Hope in October 2010 as a volunteer. By the 3rd Run of Hope Sammy was ready to walk with her Sammy’s BlobSlayers Team. It made her feel great to be able to raise funds for Pediatric Brain Tumor Research. Sammy is always looking for ways to help the next child diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Sammy has most definitely been a beneficiary of the ground breaking research that Dr. Jim Olson’s lab has developed. She remains cancer free almost 2 years later. We hope her story will inspire people to donate to the Run of Hope. Pediatric cancers are so very under funded and brain cancers are the most deadly. This research is imperative to cure pediatric brain cancer and hopefully find treatments without the detrimental side effects of current treatment protocols.