Surviving Pediatric Hepatoblastoma (Liver Cancer)

Brittany, a six-year-old who was diagnosed with Hepatoblastoma at 15 months old, and her mom, Vanessa, talk about the diagnosis and how the National Pediatric Cancer Foundation gave them hope. Hepatoblastoma is a rare form of liver cancer and it usually affects boys. About 1 in 1.5 million gets this disease.  

Upon diagnosis, Brittany was hospitalized for 11 days while the doctors created a road map for her treatment. Knowing how rare this disease is, Vanessa and her husband began researching doctors all over the United States to find an expert on hepatoblastoma.   

The stars aligned and through distant yet amazing connections, they were put in touch with the liver specialist on the solid tumor team at Texas Children’s Hospital, Dr. Patrick Thompson. They traveled to Texas several times to meet with Dr. Thompson as well as the surgeon, Dr. John Goss in preparation for Brittany’s liver resection to remove the tumor.  Brittany received chemotherapy locally and after the third round, the tumor had shrunk enough for surgery.

The surgery was done on January 30, 2013. After the longest wait of their lives, the surgeon reported that Brittany’s tumor was removed with good margins – this means Brittany is cancer-free.

Nothing could have prepared them for what they saw in the recovery room – countless tubes coming out of Brittany’s little body. The nurse, without a warning, pulled back Brittany’s gown to show her incision. The scar has since become her claim to fame – they call it her “rainbow” and she brings it with her wherever she goes. She has an understanding of just how lucky she is to be here on this earth. She has a zest for life like none other – a happiness about her that is infectious. April 2018, Brittany and her family celebrated 5 years cancer-free.

Brittany has blood work annually to monitor for long-term side effects of her treatment. The drugs that are used to treat children with cancer come with a long, terrifying list of possible side effects, not only during but also for years after treatment.

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