Saturday, January 31, 2009

Whole Lotta Nuthin’ Goin’ On

IMG_0797 The last few days have been pretty uneventful.  Although Isabella has been feeling fine, eating and drinking fine, her blood counts remain low, so they're keeping her on the Pediatric floor.  She also continues to improve movement in her right hand and is using it more and more.  Her walking is almost normal now, and she only has a slight limp.  Amazing since she hasn't been at Rusk in almost two weeks, and she only receives limited therapy (maybe 30-60 minutes a day) in her room.   And because of her low blood count, she’s not even allowed to leave the room to go to the playroom or even just take a walk around the hallway.

It's too bad that she's still in the Pediatric unit because we received tickets to attend a circus on Sunday.  We were fully expecting her to be back to Rusk by now and to be able to take a day pass and see the circus.  But instead, we'll be taking Annalise and Nathaniel to the circus and Isabella will have to stay in her room.

Her third cycle of chemo will start a week from this Saturday on February 7.  Sometime next week, before the start of cycle 3, they will perform a stem cell harvest on Isabella. In a stem cell harvest, they will pump Isabella's blood through a special filter which removes and stores the stem cells then pumps the blood back into her.  The process can take 3-4 days.  The stem cells that they collect will then be frozen and saved until the 5th chemo cycle.  During the 5th chemo cycle, they give Isabella an extremely high dose of chemo which actually destroys her bone marrow.  At that time, they will reinject her stem cells back into her so that it helps regenerate her bone marrow.  She could take up to 3-8 weeks to regenerate her bone marrow, and that time will probably be the most dangerous period during this whole chemo treatment.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

It looks like we got those hats just in time. Today, the giant clump of hair that was still hanging on to the top of Isabella’s head by a few strands finally fell off. Isabella had been asking for the last few days when her hair would fall out because what was left was really scratchy and bugging her. She kept scratching it and flipping it around until it finally just fell off. There’s still a few stubborn strands on her head that didn’t fall out, and I even see a few new stubs of hair already growing back.

What fell out is all still in one giant clump that Julianne has kept and will store. It sounds weird and it looks really creepy, but we hear that people’s hair sometimes comes back differently after chemotherapy – maybe straighter or curlier, or a slightly different shade of color. So this way, we’ll have something to compare to.

Isabella isn’t fazed one bit. She saw herself in the mirror and we took a bunch of pictures (as usual, it took a lot of work to finally get some pictures of her smiling!)

On our side though, it’s just another reminder of the reality of the disease that we’re battling. Before, she looked like she was just sporting a rebellious mohawk. But now, she definitely looks like one of those kid cancer patients on TV. We also now get a really good look at the incision scar left behind and see just how big an area they had to cut to remove the tumor. And even though I may get sad when I look at her now, it only lasts for a few seconds, because she’ll smile or laugh and that makes me smile.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Schumer, Vitter Join Rep. Barbara Lee in Introducing Bill to Combat Brain Tumors in Children

With 2,200 Children Diagnosed with Malignant Brain Tumors Each Year, Critical Funding, Research, and Coordination are Desperately Needed

Legislation will Create a New Pediatric Brain Cancer Research Network within the National Cancer Institute to Study and Prevent this Tragic Disease

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and David Vitter (R-LA) joined with Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) today to introduce legislation that would require the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a National Childhood Brain Tumor Prevention Network. The new National Childhood Brain Tumor Prevention Network would be tasked with conducting and coordinating research, providing grants, and issuing guidance and recommendations with the ultimate goal of preventing and curing pediatric brain cancers. Senator Schumer and Senator Vitter introduced the bill in the Senate today. Rep. Lee reintroduced the legislation in the House.

“There is very little that we know about the causes of brain tumors in children. But what we do know is that this disease confounds researchers, inflicts heartache on families, and shortens the lives of far too many children,” Senator Schumer said. “For kids enduring treatment, and family and friends watching them suffer, research provides a ray of hope. We must provide the National Cancer Institute with the mandate, and the resources, to study this terrible disease, because every kid should be afforded the opportunity to grow up healthy and happy.”

To read the rest of the article, click here.

Due to the relatively few cases of pediatric brain cancer, there is very little research done to treat and cure this type of cancer. In addition, the pharmaceuticals don't find it profitable to invest their R&D towards children's brain cancers. You can help by contacting your state senators and congressman and urge them to pass this bill.

To find and contact your state reps, click here.

Urge your Representatives to support House Bill HR 653.

Urge your Senators to support Senate Bill S 305.

We'll also provide updates to the bills over to the right --->

Hooray for Hats

My aunt, Tita Nits, belongs to the Over 60 Club in Stamford, CT.  When the group heard about Isabella, they all decided to make some hats and donate them to NYU Medical Center’s Pediatric Unit.  We’d like to thank them for their time, thoughts, and generosity.  We gave Isabella first pick of the hats and as we expected, she picked out the pink one.  Here she is modeling her new headwear.

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MRI Update

We are still waiting on the official MRI report. Initial indications are that the tumor is the same size, but there is less perfusion, meaning that the remaining cancer cells are receiving less blood flow. Although it is very disappointing not seeing any decrease in the cancer size, the oncologist says that we can take the less perfusion as a positive sign. As such, we will be continuing with two more cycles of chemotherapy, followed by a final blast of high dose chemotherapy with stem cell rescue.