Healing and Hope

Julia woke up night after night with excruciating neck and back pain. X-rays revealed that the 6-year-old had no serious orthopedic issues. But her parents, Todd and Jessica, knew something was terribly wrong when one day Julia lost strength in her legs and collapsed while trying to climb stairs.

Julia’s pediatrician referred her for an MRI at Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, where physicians discovered an 8 cm mass compressing her spinal cord. The following day, Julia underwent surgery to remove the tumor, giving her immediate pain relief. But there was more to the story.

The tumor was cancerous neuroblastoma, one of the deadliest forms of pediatric cancer. The cancer had metastasized throughout Julia's body. And, her cancer was stage 4—the most serious designation. Just a few days after the initial surgery, Julia began months of chemotherapy and later underwent a difficult resection surgery to remove additional tumors.

“Rady Children’s is the best facility in the world to care for our daughter,” Julia’s father, Todd reflects. “And they are right here, in our own backyard; we couldn’t have been luckier.”

Julia was enrolled in an innovative clinical trial for childhood cancer—new immunotherapy treatment in combination with low-dose chemotherapy. In January 2016, just a few days after her seventh birthday, physicians declared Julia NED: no evidence of disease. 

“We knew from the beginning that we were in the right place for this kind of treatment,” says Jessica, Julia’s mother. “The physicians, nurses and staff embraced us with the best care for Julia. Rady Children’s is an incredibly special place.”

Julia is now a thriving, delightful 10-year-old. She loves to sing and play the ukulele. She and her family know she faces years of follow-up scans to be certain cancer does not return; and potential new treatments to keep her immune system healthy.

Thanks to the generosity of our community, the Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders is able to provide a healing environment that Jessica describes as, “a magical place.” 

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