One evening, while my four-year-old little angel, Alicea, was finishing up her bath, she came out of the bathtub and yelled for her dad and I to come see her. She showed us a region on her abdomen which was protruding but complained of no pain at the time. Although we had just recently been told by her doctor’s office she was simply retaining gas, hence the swollen abdomen, we took her back to the doctor for another examination.
Upon viewing Alicea’s x-rays during the follow-up visit, the nurse practitioner immediately referred her to a radiologist for more testing. On March 27, 2009, our precious baby girl visited Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston in Atlanta for a C-T scan. When the results of the test were read to us, we were floored. We were told that she had a large “Wilms” tumor on her left kidney, which had essentially taken over the kidney and would have to be surgically removed. In disbelief, we asked the radiologist whether this tumor was malignant or benign. The radiologist said he was 99% sure the tumor was malignant. As tears flowed from my eyes, I still remained confident my baby would be just fine by God’s grace, but the incredulity was still difficult to overcome. After all, this precious little angel had just been bouncing around the house, at preschool, at church and everywhere else with no signs of any sickness or pain.
After leaving the hospital, I went home and began researching this disease online only to find out more disturbing and alarming information, most of which I could not discern. Finally, later that evening, we received a telephone call from Alicea’s surgeon. The surgeon’s voice was calm and reassuring, his words full of CORRECT information and hopefulness. After hanging up the telephone, I ran to find my daughter in another room and held her tighter than I ever had before with a renewed confidence regarding her prognosis.
On Wednesday, April 1, 2009, our courageous little soldier went under the knife to have the tumor and her left kidney removed. The surgery was a tremendous success! Our family received so much love and support from our family, friends, church family, and colleagues from school and work. For the next six days, Alicea got stronger and stronger with each visit from loved ones, and finally, she was released from the hospital. Following the surgery, she underwent 20 weeks of chemotherapy. She lost her hair but definitely not her spirit and her spunk.
On August 17, 2009, Alicea completed her chemo treatments and received a clean bill of health – she was CANCER-FREE!!! Shortly thereafter, she had her port-o-cath removed. Periodic check-ups over the next few months and in years to come are still required as follow-up to treatment, but as far we are concerned, the fight is OVER and the battle has been WON!!!
Much to our surprise initially, this story is all too familiar to so many families just like us. Like many others, until we were directly impacted by this deadly disease, we did not take notice and become involved in the fight. However, this is not something of which we are proud. There were plenty of times we could have donated money, our time or our talents to this cause and various others, but it hadn’t happened to us so it wasn’t a “priority.” In the spirit of our little survivor, Alicea, it is my prayer that our story will soften a hardened heart or open a closed mind so all we may see is LOVE for one another, so much so that no matter what circumstances we may be faced with at any given moment in our lives, we can and will weather the storm TOGETHER as we work to make life worth living to the fullest for someone who may have lost hope due to their current situation. Our only hope is that this precious gift from God – our beautiful daughter Alicea, touches the lives of all of those with whom she comes in contact through her incredible story of survival, as she has touched ours.