9 years old
atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumor
Maybe there’s no such thing as the perfect life, but looking back, Cathy believes that’s what they had. She and her family lived on 27 acres of land in Texas. All four children loved riding horses, getting dirty and just generally enjoying nature. At just 4 years old, her middle daughter, Darcy, was an accomplished rider and lasso roper and had already earned a championship belt buckle for her skills.
But life took a turn in late November 2008 when Darcy fell and hit her head at school. After that, the headaches began. By December, Darcy had begun throwing up within moments of opening her eyes each morning. Because these symptoms were coupled with a deep chest cough, the doctor believed she had postnasal drip. But Darcy never got better. Finally, in January 2009 during a doctor’s visit, Darcy vomited on the exam table when the doctor pressed her stomach. Soon after, an MRI revealed a mass on Darcy’s brain.
“It was like a freight train,” remembers Cathy. “Your life as you know it ends.”
Darcy immediately underwent a 10-hour surgery to remove the rare and deadly tumor. While she recovered, her parents researched the best options for Darcy’s continuing care. The family ultimately chose St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital because its treatment protocol has had demonstrated success and because the hospital also provides housing.
At St. Jude, Darcy received four rounds of chemotherapy and 31 radiation therapy treatments. Once Darcy finished treatment, her family returned to their ranch. Darcy began riding her horse again and participating in local rodeos. For a time, life returned to normal. Darcy rode her horse, went to school and played with her brother and sisters.
But this past spring, during a routine checkup at St. Jude, Darcy’s family learned her cancer had returned. An MRI showed a four-centimeter tumor had wrapped around her spinal cord in her back and tail bone. Darcy’s continuing treatment includes radiation therapy and an experimental chemotherapy treatment.
The chemotherapy is fighting the cancer. Darcy’s most recent set of scans showed the tumor is significantly smaller.
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