A Maritime Miracle

A Maritime Miracle

The only words more difficult to hear than that you’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumour are hearing the same words spoken about your child. The earliest months for all parents can seem overwhelming and demanding but are at the same time the most precious. For Terri Jones of Fredericton, New Brunswick, the tireless nights with her newborn baby were compounded in the spring of 2001 when her four-month-old daughter Cassandra began to have seizures.

After several tests and procedures to determine the cause of the seizures, at the tender age of 4 months, Cassandra was flown to the IWK and underwent a six-hour surgery for a biopsy. The team of nurses, neurologists and neurosurgeons determined that her brain tumour – a very rare type of slow growing “Desmoplastic Infantile Astrocytoma” – was on the right side of her brain sitting on her pituitary gland and wrapped around her optic nerve. There were at first some complications and growth that required a VP Shunt to help drain the fluid from her brain, and at six and a half months began a regimen of 64 weeks of chemotherapy that seemed to have controlled the tumour’s effects.

 

For a six year old, Cassandra has been through more than most people have in six decades. However, she has pulled through everything as if it had no impact on her. She has always been so strong and so vibrant that it made the process of treatment a lot easier on her family. As her mother explains: “Cassie has completed kindergarten with no troubles and participates in the summer camps at the local YMCA. She is very active and shows no signs of stopping! She is a true miracle for me and I look up to her for the courage she has put forth.”

Brain tumours may become more prevalent as Canadians get older, but there are still an estimated 3,000 children living with a brain tumour and a further 300 being diagnosed each year. And while brain tumours are the leading cause of solid tumour cancer death in children under the age of 20 (surpassing acute lymphoblastic leukemia), pediatric treatment and care means that more and more children are surviving to lead full and complete lives like Cassandra.

 

Research into the more than 120 types of pediatric brain tumours is on-going and so many types make effective treatment very complicated. Brain tumours in children are different than those in adults and are often treated differently. Although as many as 60 percent of children will survive, they are often left with long-term side effects. This is the reason why Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada puts so much emphasis on their BrainWAVE program and makes their Children’s Storybook and Pediatric Handbook as available as possible.

Terri, Cassandra and the rest of their family are happy to be a part of the efforts to provide family and community support and with fundraising for research. They participate in Fredericton’s Spring Sprint  (now Brain Tumour Walk) each year and are comforted to see the number of survivors grow each year. The prospect for Cassandra’s future is bright.

“Cassie may have a long road ahead, but right now I’m happy having my daughter and knowing that this is a stable disease that still allows her to have a normal childhood. With good results this summer, it makes four years in ‘remission’ for Cassie!”

Photo: Todd, Terri and Cassandra


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