Christina’s Story

September 19, 2019
According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, 15,780 children from birth to 19 years old are diagnosed with cancer every year. That is 1 in 285 kids. Globally 300,000 kids are diagnosed each year. Those are crazy big numbers that we do not hear in our media every day. We need more research to stop cancer in its tracks and give our children a fighting chance.

This is Christina’s Story:

“Kindergarten started in a whirlwind. My daughter, a rambunctious, high spirited 5-year-old who knew no stranger went into the school year like a charging bull ready to concur the world. About every day she got into trouble for talking too much and would bother the other students by humming while she worked at her desk. None of this was a surprise to this mom. Preschool was the same.

She received a double dose of humor and loved to make people smile, especially if they looked sad. She made it a mission to make a sad person smile or giggle. We passed a man at Walmart one day on each aisle, She would say “Hello”, Next aisle, “I hope you have a good day”, Next aisle, “My name is Christina”, Next aisle, “You must be having a bad day”, Next aisle the man says, “My name is Jim and I was”. By the next aisle, they were old friends chatting away. She could touch the untouchable.

This was life with Christina everywhere she went. Full and busy until she had a limp in her left leg. She had slipped off a water slide but the limp was not going away. The doctor said to just keep an eye on it. Then she started slipping off of stools in the classroom. At first, everyone thought she was just her normal busy self. But it got worse and she did not understand why she was falling over. Back to the doctor, next came an eye exam and then an inner ear test. Nothing was coming back to a problem. Then she started getting mean, yelling, kicking me, biting me and took a toy away from a boy at school. Again back to the doctor who chalked it up to starting school, new environment, rules, learning bad behavior from other kids and she would just grow out of it. I was not convinced. At Thanksgiving dinner, she threw a fit that rivaled a professional wrestler, literally carried her to the car kicking and screaming. After these fits she always would tearfully say she was so sorry, she didn’t understand why she was acting that way. I knew she truly meant it. I made another appointment with her doctor for the next Monday. By that Monday the limp that never went away was full blown sideways stumble. In my heart, I knew this is
neurological and this is bad.

At our doctor’s office, we were told to take her immediately to Riley. Our world from that moment on would never be the same. She had a tumor, immediate surgery to relieve pressure on her brain from water building up. She received a shunt that night. In the morning we were told she has a Pontine glioma and its cancer with a 10% survival. My baby had gone from a healthy lively 5-year-old to she probably will not survive to her next Birthday! A second surgery for a port a couple of days later. Radiation started the following week but by that time I was carrying her into the hospital as she could no longer walk. The tumor was pressing on the spinal nerves that control her left side, she basically had the symptoms of a stroke and had no control of her left side. But by the 5th radiation treatment broke her free of the pressure, by that night she was running around the house and my hope soared. At one radiation visit, a nurse sat beside me and stated who she was and that she was there to start physical therapy. Her doctor said have you seen Christina yet? She said, “No I have not met her yet.” Her doctor said, “Oh, you don’t meet Christina you encounter Christina.” Every doctor, nurse, and anesthesiologist thought she was funny and a great patient. She would paint her nails herself, all different colors except her one pointer finger, “It has to be naked for the oxygen reader!” She was a riot with the nurses and they loved her.

The prayers of thousands from all over the country were being answered. She was beating this monster. She missed around 10 weeks of school for radiation every day, chemo on Thursdays. But at the end of radiation, the tumor had shrunk and she was acting like her normal self. Full of life she even went back to school and only had chemo every Thursdays and some other appointments from time to time. Her school (JB Stephens) let her come and go with appointments and rallied around her cheering her on. She teased doctors, telling one she did not know at an appointment, “Unless you’re Jesus you’re not touching me!” My child was beating the odds in grand Christina style. She made a lasting impression with every encounter. She finished chemo and was actually upset that she would not be there every Thursday to see her friends and do crafts. She amazed me that the treatment itself was never a big deal to her. It was all about Craft day at Riley and socializing.

3 1/2 years went by and then at a standard MRI check bad news again, although I had suspected what he would tell us. The limp was back and the tumor was growing again. This time chemo hit her hard. She lost her hair quickly, although she refused to wear the beautiful wig she got. She said that her friends liked her the way she was. She was in a wheelchair very quickly, but the kids took turns pushing her around at school so that did not bother her either. She always wanted to go to school even though she felt bad most of the time. She wanted to be with her friends and I let her for as long as possible. It was important to me that she was able to be a kid and be with kids for as long as possible. In her life, we did as much as we could for as long as we could and she did a lot in her short life. We lost Christina, and I do mean we… her friends, her teachers, her doctors, and nurses and our community on Oct 19th, 2015. No child should face death but she did, her friends did with her and I have sure changed them as well. I know my life and my family’s life changed in ways we notice every day. There is never a day she is not thought of.

We talk about how horrible cancer is but seldom do we see these kids. Most are kept away from germs, school, life trying to let them live longer. I did see a child this past weekend out with his family at an Apple Orchard being pushed in a wheelchair with the same radiation line in his hair that Christina had. I was glad to see the family was trying to be “normal” getting him out to enjoy the beautiful day and have fun. But it also broke my heart that another child and family have to face Cancer.”

Hancock Pediatrics is helping to raise money for childhood cancer research during the month of September through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Please click here to make a donation, as our goal is to raise $2,500! #KidsAreGold

Story provided by: Lori Gossett

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