Stories about: tumor

Solving the mystery of a shapeshifting neck tumor

Jaedin, who had a cervical teratoma, is now 10 years old. He is pictured with a remote-controlled race car this past Christmas.
Jaedin, 10 years old, holds the control for a remote-controlled race car, Christmas 2017.

Amanda Brown couldn’t shake an uneasy intuition that something just seemed “off” throughout her second pregnancy. During a scheduled caesarian section at her local hospital in North Carolina, her instinct proved to be true.

“I had given birth to my first son by C-section so I knew what to expect,” Amanda says. “But this time around, as the surgeons totally stalled in the middle of the delivery, I thought to myself, ‘it doesn’t take this long to pull a baby out.’”

When her son Jaedin was finally delivered, Amanda and her husband were shocked by their first sight of him.

“Jaedin had a huge mass on the left side of his neck that looked like it was growing out of his ear,” Amanda says. “The doctors told us they didn’t know what the mass was and that they would have to take him to a nearby children’s hospital right away.”

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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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