Stories about: neuroblastoma

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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Young actor plays unexpected role

MIBG-neuorblastoma

Before he was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2014 at the age of 11, Noah Smith was a veteran of the children’s theater stage. The suburban Boston boy had been cast in ensembles. He’d played Kurt Von Trapp in “The Sound of Music.”

Little did Noah know that he would soon star in a video designed to allay the fears of children facing radioactive medication delivered intravenously in a lead-lined room where they’d live, under restrictions, for a week. After he received the medication, his parents would only be able to visit him one at a time, standing behind a lead shield and unable to touch him. Nurses would limit their time in his room, entering briefly to check vital signs. Parents and nurses alike would wear badges to monitor their exposure to the radioactive child in the bed.

Add to this the fact that most children who get the cancer that originates in nerve cells are under 5 and it’s easy to understand the anxiety these young patients and their families might feel anticipating MIBG (metaiodobenzylguanidine) therapy.

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Celebrating milestones and memories

We are honored U.S. News & World Report has named Boston Children’s Hospital the #1 pediatric hospital in the nation. It’s an opportunity for us to step back and celebrate your amazing families and your special moments — your baby steps, birthdays and graduations. You are the reason we do what we do.

You inspire us.

Kidney transplant recipient Ayden SwimmingThree-year-old Ayden went swimming for the first time following his kidney transplant, while his best friend Aubrey, below, also a kidney transplant recipient, celebrated her 3rd birthday. The two still keep in touch, as they travel through the transplant journey together.


Neonatology twins

At birth, twins Sophie and Maddie weighed under two pounds each. This month, these spirited sisters celebrated their 8th birthday together at home.


heart surgery recipients go to prom

Logan and Allie met as babies when they both had heart surgery at Boston Children’s. This spring, they attended the prom together.


A boy with leg length discrepancy graduates

Following a series of limb-lengthening operations throughout his childhood, George recently graduated from high school and is off to St. Andrew University in Scotland to study biochemistry.


Bryan at the Eversource walk following life-threatening brain AVM

Following AVM surgery, Bryan completed the seven-mile Eversource Walk for Boston Children’s. He also fundraised more than $10,000 for the hospital. 


Cancer-Bridgette-West

Bridgette West’s family just moved into a new home — their first— after calling Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center home for months while Bridgette battled cancer

Read more of the greatest children’s stories ever told, and share your story.

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Young neuroblastoma patient and family make new home at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s

Bridgette WestBridgette West sparkled last fall in the “Fight Song” music video, created by patients at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. But before the 2-year-old became a social media standout with her dancing, she and her family faced challenges that went far beyond a cancer diagnosis.

In the summer of 2015, after struggling for a year with misdiagnosed illnesses, Bridgette and her parents traveled from their Albany, New York, home to Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. There, tests confirmed she had neuroblastoma, and while Bridgette started treatment, her parents, Roger and Beth, took turns driving 175 miles to take care of Bridgette’s 5-year-old sister Trinity and see other family members back home.

It was a difficult period, as Roger was taking time off from his job, and the family continued to pay rent on an empty Albany apartment, while expenses piled up in Boston.

“That was a hectic, crazy time,” recalls Roger. “Once we realized what we were facing with Bridgette’s cancer — including surgery — we looked around at the incredible people taking care of us here and decided to move and be here all the time.”

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