When our precious Hannah was 4 years old, she was a happy girl whose biggest concern was whether she should play with her Barbie or Bratz dolls. Her favorite things were playing with her big sister Nicole, her cats and dog and her toys.
Her world changed on March 18th, 2005 when she was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma. A doctor’s visit for leg pain showed a large solid tumor and bone disease. The plan was surgery to remove the tumor and chemotherapy to prepare her for a harvest of clean bone marrow for two stem cell transplants, along with subsequent rounds of chemotherapy - all followed by radiation and an Accutane regimen.
Within a month she had completed two rounds of intense chemotherapy. On May 5th Hannah's bone marrow was pronounced clean, and on May 17th they did the harvest. Hannah's surgery was performed in June by one of her amazing doctors at Scottish Right Children's Hospital. He was able to remove the bulk of the primary tumor. Now she was ready for her stem cell transplants.
The stem cell transplants were by far the hardest part of the treatment for Hannah. They began with seven days of high dose chemotherapy and then the transplants. The pain was so intense that a constant morphine drip was required to manage it. I cannot describe how painful it is to watch a beloved child take methadone to get over a morphine withdrawal - besides everything else she had to endure. Additionally the Bone Marrow Transplant unit is an isolation unit - Hannah couldn’t go home or see her sister for weeks at a time.
By December Hannah had completed all her treatments, and subsequent scans showed that Hannah was cancer free! Life was normal again - family, friends, school and fun. Each day was a blessing and a gift – we felt that she had won and our nightmare was over.
Fifteen months later we learned that our precious Hannah’s Neuroblastoma had recurred. We were told she could continue chemotherapy for as long as the treatments controlled her cancer - twelve to eighteen months maximum. To this day she still needs chemotherapy every fourth week. Each treatment lasts five days, but is done as out-patient therapy. We continue to look for clinical trials – new, promising (but untested) treatments which might be developed to help cure Hannah’s disease. So far we have not found a trial where the benefit outweighs the side effects.
Hannah is our little miracle - chemotherapy has kept her cancer from growing for five years. We know that one day there will be a treatment that will make Hannah cancer-free. We are so thankful to CURE for their commitment to help find a cure for children's cancer for Hannah and all like her.
Hannah wants to be a chef when she grows up, we know the right treatment will be discovered to make that possible. Her courage and spirit continue to inspire and amaze us.