Stories about: Lisa Diller MD

Twist of fate: Anna reconnects with the oncologist who saved her life

Anna survived childhood cancer.
Credit: Mark Dela Cruz

Anna Protsiou was five in 2002 when she was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. She remembers pain and the fruit-scented anesthesia masks that led her to stop eating cherries. She remembers hospital arts and crafts projects. What she barely remembers is the pediatric oncologist who saved her life.

She was a young girl then who didn’t speak English, moving with her family from their native Greece to be treated for a year at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Now, after moving with her family to Canada in 2014, she’s a 20-year-old dance student at the School of Contemporary Dancers/ University of Winnipeg and a contortionist with a rubber-band body. She’s ready to claim her history as her own, ready to move beyond photographs of the doctor and memories recounted by her parents, ready to take charge of her own health care.

So Anna traveled to Boston to meet her physician, Dr. Lisa Diller, and learn about potential late effects of the high-dose chemotherapy, radiation and two stem cell transplants that eradicated her cancer after surgeons excised her tumor.

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Talking about a new cancer diagnosis with your child

The following information originally appeared on Insight, a blog by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Helping a loved one face cancer is never easy, but the challenge is especially daunting when the patient is your own child. The clinicians at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center work with pediatric cancer patients and their families every day and have experience in helping families approach the subject. Here,  Lisa Diller, MD, Anna Muriel, MD, and Jorge Fernandez, LCSW offer tips for talking with your children about their illness.           

1. Include them in the discussion. For many parents, the natural instinct is to not give their child information about their diagnosis to avoid scaring them. But children can view this protection as exclusion, a feeling that they are not important enough to include in the discussion. It’s also anxiety-provoking in that it creates uncertainties and fears that the situation may be worse than it really is.

2. Find a good time and place. Figure out the best time to talk to your child; maybe in bed, or in the car, or even while doing something fun or active. Whatever feels most comfortable to them. We have resources that can help in the discussion.

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Children’s makes the Top Doc list

Boston Magazine recently released its 2011 Top Doc list, made up of the best 650 physicians in the Hub. Seeing as Boston is home to some of the greatest medical minds on the planet, the list reads like a prestigious who’s-who roster of talent; a medical dream team spanning every aspect of treatment, from surgery to research and innovation.

Broken into 57 different specialties, doctors included on the list are voted for by fellow medical professionals, meaning that the Top Docs have not only gained the respect of the public and media, but of their peers as well.

Children’s Hospital Boston is proud to announce that over 10 percent of the entire list was made up of our staff, many of whom will be familiar to Thriving readers.

David Ludwig, MD, PhD

As director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital, David Ludwig, MD, PhD, is a respected leader in childhood obesity research and prevention, as well as a regular Thriving contributor and interviewee. In a recent post Ludwig explains why he supports legislation that would restrict the amount of junk food available through public assistance programs. For more blogs on Dr. Ludwig’s work, click here.

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In 2004 Children’s Chief of Cardiac Surgery, Pedro del Nido, MD, was the first person to use the da Vinci surgical robot to fix a defect in a child’s heart, using child-sized tools of his own design. Read about another family whose child was also saved by Dr. del Nido’s surgical expertise and steady hands.

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Mininder Kocher, MD, MPH

Mininder Kocher, MD, MPH, associate director of Children’s Division of Sports Medicine, helps many young athletes work through their sports related injuries. Most recently Dr. Kocher and one of his patients was featured on ABC World News, a segment that included a guest appearance by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

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David Hunter, MD, PhD

David Hunter, MD, PhD, Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital Boston’s Department of Ophthalmology has spent years helping young people see better. In this recent blog post, Dr. Hunter weighs in on new research that indicates that the amount of time a toddler spends outside could have a direct, positive relationship on his developing eyesight.

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Protecting the fertility of childhood cancer survivors

By Tom Ulrich. A version of this story originally appeared in Vector, Children’s science and innovation blog

While many childhood cancers are readily curable, those cures can come at a cost to future fertility. (Wikimedia Commons)

Thanks to advances in medicine, 75 percent of children currently diagnosed with cancer will live to see adulthood. This is extremely welcome news of course, but with it comes new questions about what adult life holds for survivors of childhood cancers. As science is now discovering, the therapies that are so effective at saving children’s lives can also occasionally lead to problems down the road (called the late effects of cancer treatment.)

Some of the more common concerns surrounding late effects of cancer treatment have to do with its effects on fertility, which can be quite harsh. “There’s a huge segment of the pediatric oncology population that’s at risk for infertility when they grow up,” says Richard Yu, MD, PhD who works on male infertility in Children’s Hospital Boston’s department of Urology.

The problem is hardly gender specific. “It’s as though cancer treatment pushes the ovaries further down the age curve,” says Sara Barton, a fertility specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who collaborates with Lisa Diller, MD clinical director of the Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC). “So while a woman who has survived childhood cancer may be 20 years old, her ovaries act like they’re 35 or 40.”

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