My Name is Vanessa and I’m helping my daughter Block Out Cancer

Keira Armstrong was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor at age 2.When our then 4-year-old daughter Keira complained of a stomachache, we thought she was probably constipated. We gave her laxatives and took her to the pediatrician who also agreed it was most likely constipation. He told us to bring her back in two weeks if she wasn’t improving.

Her stomach continued to hurt and her abdomen became very swollen. We took her back to the doctor who ordered some blood work and X-rays. He told us that if she wasn’t better in the morning to take her to the Emergency Room. Keira tried to convince us that she felt better, but we knew she was still in pain. We took her to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital ER.

My husband drove Keira up to Ann Arbor from our home in Tecumseh and I stayed home with our son, Cooper, who was 2 years old at the time. After several hours, my husband called and told me they’d found a mass on Keira’s left kidney and thought it was cancer. I quickly found someone to care for our son and rushed to Mott.

That was April 8, 2010. They told us she had a Wilms tumor, which as far as cancer goes was very treatable. Everything happened so quickly – the Mott team didn’t waste a minute scheduling the necessary tests that night so they could get a plan in place and make arrangements for surgery with Dr. Marcus Jarboe to remove the tumor, as well as Keira’s left kidney, the very next day.

Vanessa Armstrong with her familyAfter surgery, Keira started chemotherapy right away – less than a week later. The chemo was pretty uneventful; Keira didn’t even lose any hair and didn’t get very sick. She finished the chemo that August and everything looked good.

Then in May of 2011, doctors found an 8 cm tumor on her liver. She had radiation and chemo to treat that tumor. This time her treatment was a lot harder on her. She lost her hair and she felt sick. In September of 2011, the tumor had shrunk to only 2 cm and she had surgery with Dr. Jarboe again to remove the cancerous tissue from her liver. She finished with treatment at the end of December that year.

She’s been cancer free ever since. Keira’s now 9 years old and just started fourth grade. We go in every six months for a checkup and Keira is always excited to see Dr. Aghiad Chamdin and her nurse, Judy Moyer. Just like everyone at Mott, they are so kind to all of us.

Keira is now a healthy, adorable girl. She loves Girl Scouts, American Girl dolls, art and reading. We just finished all the Harry Potter books. She also loves mysteries. She’s really active too. She joined Girls on the Run last spring and completed her first 5k. She’s also a great big sister to her two younger siblings.

block out cancer donate nowWe’re incredibly grateful for the research done at Mott that made Keira’s cancer treatable. Getting a diagnosis of cancer for your child is devastating, but hearing that it’s very treatable makes it a lot easier. I hope that one day research finds answers to all the cancers affecting children.

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Vanessa ArmstrongVanessa Armstrong is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and the mom to three wonderful children: Keira, Cooper and Harper. She and her family live in Tecumseh.




mott blog - BOC thumbBlock Out Cancer is a rallying cry for people from all walks of life to come together to support the fight against children’s cancers. Everyone has a role to play. Learn more about how you can help Block Out Cancer.


best children's hospital

University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is consistently ranked one of the best hospitals in the country. It was nationally ranked in all ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News Media Group’s “America’s Best Children’s Hospitals,” in 2014, and among the 10 best children’s hospitals in the nation by Parents Magazine.