This is Victoria. She doesn’t know it yet, but in a few months she will be diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare malignant liver cancer that affects, on average, 1 in a million children… and her life will never be the same. We, her parents, feel privileged to tell you her story.
On a fated September day, a playful tickling of her tummy revealed a mass in her abdomen which was quickly confirmed by an ultrasound. Fearing the worst, we contacted Texas Children’s Cancer Center where the next diagnostic studies (MRI, blood tests, biopsy) were promptly and efficiently scheduled. Victoria was diagnosed with stage III hepatoblastoma on Oct. 1, 2015. As physicians, we were very concerned; as her parents, we were devastated. This meant her tumor could not be removed by surgery. Victoria would have to receive chemotherapy prior to even discussing whether she would qualify for tumor resection or a liver transplant.
One thing we knew was that she was in the right place, under the vigilant care of multidisciplinary experts. Having just relocated to Texas from New York in the previous months, we were still uncertain of our surroundings, but one thing we knew to be true amid the anguish: Texas Children’s was the right choice for her treatment.
Victoria received four cycles of chemotherapy to reduce the size of her tumor while her oncologists, surgeon, radiologists and liver transplant team coordinated efforts to determine the best surgical approach and lay the groundwork for a possible liver transplant. Victoria underwent a successful complete surgical resection of her tumor on Jan. 6, 2016, and ultimately did not require a liver transplant. Should she have required an imminent transplant, it was heartening to know that the outstanding liver transplant team was ready.
Today, Victoria is in remission. The darkest clouds have dissipated and we hope to continue to watch our daughter thrive and develop. The experience of treating Victoria’s hepatoblastoma has not only taught us to be the best parents we can be, but has also brought out the absolute best in everyone we have met. We have received the best from everyone at Texas Children’s through their time, effort, knowledge, expertise and compassion in the care of our daughter. We feel first and foremost immense gratitude for the entire Liver Tumor Program, Rare Tumor Program and all the health care personnel in emergency, outpatient and inpatient services. Our daughter would not be as she is today if it wasn’t for all their combined efforts. It was so easy to trust the team and the process. We pray this never happens to you or a loved one, but say to those in a similar situation to trust and communicate with your providers. We were graced with the very best. They will say that they were just doing their job, unaware that in so doing they have changed our lives and touched our family in indescribable ways. They have given Victoria another chance at life.
We are bound in gratitude to Dr. Sanjeev Vasudevan, Dr. Rajkumar Venkatramani, Dr. Mehmet Fatih Okcu, Dr. Jennifer Agrusa, Dr. Prakash Masand, Dr. John Goss and Ms. Taryn Sirls-Guzman.