Stories about: tumor

A father’s hope for his son’s life

Juan and Fredy pictured in 2017, nearly one year after Fredy's tumor was removed.
Juan and Fredy in 2017.

Juan was looking forward to having his son, Fredy, 14, finally come home to live with him. The teenager had been living under the care of his grandmother since he was a toddler.

But on that long-awaited homecoming day, Juan was quickly jarred from feeling great joy to grave concern.

“When I saw his face, one side looked very different from the other and his lip was swollen,” says Juan. “He admitted right away that his face had been hurting.”

Juan remembered that the last time he’d seen his son — more than one year ago — Fredy’s face had looked slightly different then too. But whatever was happening, the situation had clearly become much worse since then. Something was undeniably very, very wrong.

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Lauren’s goal: Soccer star beats odds and gets back to the field

neck-tumor“I remember the phone call after Lauren’s fall,” says Dr. Jordan Busch. “My wife said, ‘Lauren fell, and her vertebra is broken, but that’s not the bad news.’” A tumor had eaten away at one of the bones in Lauren’s neck and was lodged in their daughter’s cervical spine.

“I can still see the slow-motion tape in my head,” recalls Dr. Nancy Corliss, Lauren’s mother. “It looked like a routine soccer trip, and I did the three-second count every mother does.”

Nancy started running when she got to three. Lauren, then 12, and a star forward for a JBSC U12 team, was strapped onto a backboard and rushed to Morton Hospital in Taunton, Massachusetts.

This type of tumor is one in 250,000. To find any surgeon with the right experience and expertise is one thing, and to find a pair who had more experience than anyone else was incredibly fortunate. ~ Dr. Jordan Busch

After Lauren’s CT scan showed a tumor in her spine, her emergency physician told Jordan and Nancy, “Boston Children’s Hospital is the best place for your daughter.”

Lauren endured a second painful ambulance ride to Boston Children’s and then an MRI scan, which confirmed the tumor.

As her parents and doctors conferred, Lauren formed her goal — returning to the soccer field. She told her mother she needed a replacement for her lucky #28 soccer jersey. (Her jersey had to be cut off after the injury.)

Though Nancy gently explained the jersey wasn’t the top concern, Lauren remained adamant. After Nancy texted Lauren’s coach James Bede with an update on her condition, he had a new jersey made and delivered it to Lauren.

“I knew he believed in me,” says Lauren.

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Mason’s story: A newborn with a peach-sized tumor

momandmasonWhen Tara Johnson found out— after 10 years of trying to get pregnant—she was carrying boy-girl twins, she was thrilled. “It was so exciting, it felt like a double blessing,” she remembers.

The pregnancy progressed normally until her 21-week checkup when everything changed. Doctors found a large growth on the neck of her unborn son.

Tara’s care was transferred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and doctors from Endocrinology and Otolaryngology at Boston Children’s Hospital formed a team to manage her son’s care.

When she was 31 weeks pregnant, Tara and husband Bruce were in Boston to meet with Boston Children’s Associate Otolaryngologist-in-Chief Dr. Reza Rahbar for the first time, when she unexpectedly went into labor. Doctors were able to stop the labor, and Tara was put on bed rest at Brigham and Women’s. “I was really at the right place at the right time,” she says.

The ensuing weeks were filled with a lot of waiting and anxiety, two MRIs, many ultrasounds and multiple meetings with Dr. Rahbar to plan for the twins’ birth and the inevitable surgery to remove her son’s ever-increasing growth. Dr. Rahbar was certain the tumor was a benign teratoma, but couldn’t determine exactly the severity until the baby was born. Bruce remembers, “I worried a lot about whether Mason would make it through all of his medical issues, and at the same time I also worried about the long-term complications if he did survive.”

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Treating childhood cancer: The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree

Kezia Fitzgerald is a new mother. She’s also a recent cancer survivor and mom to a daughter currently battling childhood cancer.

Saoirse and Kezia at Dana-Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Center

As the parent of a sick child, all you want is for your baby to get better. You focus all of your attention on healing and caring for her needs, and if possible you’d give all of your health to make her feel better. But what happens when the parent is battling just as hard as the child to get healthy?

In January of 2011 our family was hit with the hardest news we thought we could ever receive – I was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin Lymphoma. Along with being afraid for my health, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to fully care for my child. I loved my new life as a stay at home mom, and I hated the though of not being able to give 100 percent of myself to my daughter Saoirse as a result of cancer. After weeks of tests and scans, I quickly weaned my 8-month-old baby off breast milk and began chemotherapy. Luckily for me, I had minimal side effects, and with the help of family and friends, Saoirse got all the love and attention that she could have ever wanted.

(check out CNN coverage of the Fitzgerald’s story by visiting their website.)

Pretty soon the word “normal” took on a new meaning in our lives. We got used to our routine of tests and doctor appointments and patiently waited for a time when it would all be done. Always a happy and playful child, Saoirse was becoming more and more independent, which made it easier for me, as I was losing more and more energy.

However, one day in April, our fun loving, happy baby changed completely.

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