My name is Jason, and DNA sequencing is helping my family Block Out Cancer

Jason and Amelie StrzalkowskiWhen our youngest daughter, Amelie, was 22 months in the fall of 2012, we noticed that she started to have balance problems. She went from zooming around the house to being less steady, and then one Sunday, she stood up and simply fell over. That set off warning bells for me and my wife, Shelley.

We scheduled an appointment with our pediatrician for that Wednesday. From there, our pediatrician sent us to the ER at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Thursday morning she had an MRI where they discovered a brain tumor. Amelie was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a kind of fast-growing tumor. On Friday, she had a 13-hour surgery to have as much of the tumor removed as possible. The team at Mott took tissue samples from the tumor to study them further.

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My Name is Katie and I’m fighting Ewing’s Sarcoma in my battle to Block Out Cancer

Katie Shaver - Block Out CancerI just started my senior year at Marlette High School, but my teen years have been a pretty different experience than most other girls my age. When I was in eighth grade, I had pain in my hip for a few months. I went to a chiropractor who thought it was arthritis. When the pain did not go away, I had X-rays that showed a grapefruit-sized mass attached to my hip. I was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a cancerous tumor that is most often found in bones or nearby tissue.

I was referred to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital for care. Because the tumor was in my hip, my first experiences at Mott were with the oncology clinic and Dr. Biermann, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in orthopedic oncology. With Dr. Biermann, I underwent surgery to remove the tumor and my ilium (the large bone in your pelvis) on November 30th. I also had 13 rounds of chemo stretching from August through April. The chemo was not fun! I lost my hair and felt sick. I missed volleyball season that year.

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My Name is Teresa and I’m helping Block Out Cancer by raising awareness

Terese Alexander RNWhen I was 44 years old, I had a couple of strokes. It was then that my doctors discovered that I had a congenital heart defect, a hole in my heart. Because it’s a condition most commonly found and treated in children, I had surgery at Mott by a pediatric cardiologist. While I’d been a nurse for nearly 20 years at that point, I decided that I wanted to work where I could make the most difference. I’ve been working in pediatric oncology ever since.

In my job, I help families and patients navigate the journey they take when a child is diagnosed with cancer. Our clinic has Nurse Navigators – each of us are responsible for a certain patient population. I work especially closely with patients in the Solid Tumor Oncology Program. Each of our patients is seen in clinic for evaluation, blood counts, etc, before each round of chemotherapy and also for any worrisome symptoms between treatments.

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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.

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My name is Carl, and I study genes that cause brain tumors in my fight to help Block Out Cancer.

Carl Koschmann, MDEarlier this year, I became a Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Fellow at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

What does this mean exactly? Aside from this bringing yet another year of training (this will be 27th grade for me!), I will spend a year learning how to take care of children diagnosed with brain tumors, working with incredible pediatric neuro-oncology clinicians, Dr. Patricia Robertson and Marcia Leonard, APRN.

In addition to my clinical work, I will also continue working in the Castro/Lowenstein Lab that focuses on learning more about malignant brain tumors. Drs. Lowenstein and Castro have established tremendous success in developing gene therapies to treat brain tumors, one of which is now the basis of a Phase I trial in adult patients here at the University of Michigan. Continue reading

Raegan’s Story: Wilms Tumor Treatment at Mott Children’s Hospital

mott blog - raegan kromer block out cancerChristina Kromer looks back on it as a real whirlwind.

“It all happened so quickly,” said Christina of her daughter Raegan’s journey at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Her 16-month-old daughter Raegan seemed to be doing fine. She was a happy baby — very social and playful. She wasn’t showing any symptoms of distress.

So Christina, of Howell, was terrified when she went to change her daughter’s diaper before a nap one afternoon to find blood — lots of it.

Her local pediatrician told the Kromers to come to her office in Howell right away. There, after an ultrasound, Raegan was directed to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

“They were expecting us,” Christina and her husband Benjamin said about their initial experience at Mott. “They had a fellow from the surgery department ready to see us.”

Raegan underwent a CT scan and doctors confirmed the problem. Raegan’s right kidney had a form of kidney cancer known as a Wilms tumor, or nephroblastoma.

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