Gabi is 10 years old and inthe 5th grade. She has 3 sisters and is a very active little girl. Her favorite hobbies include dancing, reading and hanging out with friends. Her story begins with a miracle and we pray that it will endwith a cure.
In early January 2011, 9 year old Gabi went ice skating with friends. She fell and landed on her right knee. After 3 weeks of pain with little improvement, she went to the doctor. X-rays were taken and nothing was found. After 3 more weeks, swelling was noticeable and she was still experiencing pain. We went back to the doctor where repeat x-rays were taken. Doctors found what looked to be a stress fracture. She was put on crutches and scheduled for an MRI.
March 10th, 2011 was the date for her MRI and a date that changed our lives forever. The radiologist informed physician that Gabi's MRI results showed what looked to be osteosarcoma-cancer.
When we were told this news, it was shocking, heartbreaking, scary, unnervingand so many other emotions- all at the same time. We knew nothing of her prognosis, what it meant for Gabi or if the cancer had spread.
We were seen by an orthopedic oncologist who specializes in bone sarcomas that very next day. He reviewed the initial testing and the MRI and he believed it to be one of 3 possibilities; 1)osteosarcoma, 2)ewings sarcoma, or 3)an infection that would require high doses of antibiotics through a surgically implanted port. No matter what the diagnosis, we knew the doctor would have to remove the lower part of her femur and she would have to have reconstructive knee surgery to include a prosthesis to replace the amputated part of the femur. None of these options were palatable, but we were praying for the lesser of "three" evils.
Gabi was scheduled for a surgical biopsy on March 14, 2011. Results confirmedthe doctor's suspicion...osteosarcoma- a cancer of the bone that destroystissue and weakens the bone. This is a very rare cancer, only 400 childhood cases identified per year. Only 3% of all childhood cancers are osteosarcoma. Leave it to my baby to be rare! The doctor explained that the iceskating incident actually saved her life. If not for the fall, we may not have known that there was anything wrong with her knee until it was too late.
Her recovery from the surgery was rough. She had a hard time coming out of the anesthesia. 4 days after the biopsy, she was set up with a pediatric oncologist at a children's hospital. Her treatment will be rough and it will be a long journey. Her chemo treatments are going to be aggressive and will require 4-5 day hospital stays per treatment.
And so Gabi's journey begins here. We are optimistic in her future and have the utmost faith in her doctors. Above all, we know that she is in God's hands, He is in control and He has a plan. Thank you for your prayers and support.
Andy and Debbie Shull
“For I know the plans I have for you.” Jeremiah 29:11
Scan Results- All Clear (but a little scary at times)
Oct 7, 2013 8:56pm
What a day! I can thankfully report that Gabi’s scans came back ALL CLEAR!! Thank you God! Unfortunately, it wasn’t without worry.
We started our day in the audiology clinic to have her hearing checked. The results concluded that her hearing has finally ceased to worsen! She still has high frequency hearing loss in both ears, but that doesn’t affect her daily life. The tests actually showed that her hearing has improved slightly from 6 months ago! We will take it! We moved on to the radiology clinic where they put in Gabi’s IV and injected her with the radioactive drug that soaks into the bone needed for the interpretation of her bone scan. The drug takes 2 hours to fully saturate the bone, so once finished, we moved into the CT scan room so they could get a CT of her chest(lungs) followed by an x-ray of her leg.
It all started out normal. The techs positioned her on the scanner and began the test.This was the moment when time stopped (as did my heart and my breathing). As the test was in progress, I looked back through the glass window where the 2 technicians sat (we got to stay in the CT room with Gabi). While looking, I noticed both techs suddenly developed a look of despair on their faces. Immediately, my red flags went up! One of them sighed and then they began talking quickly to one another. I became increasingly fearful of what they were seeing. Scary thoughts of a cancer recurrence began flashing through my mind. Then one of the techs came out to say that she had to go show the radiologist “something.” Something??? Really??? Andy and I looked at each other and I was finding it harder and harder to hold it together. When she came back, she said she needed to get some more pictures a little lower down. Oh. My. God. My thoughts ran rampant. When osteo returns, it usually comes back in the lungs. I thought that they spotted a nodule(s) and needed more views. By this point, it was all I could do to hold back the tears and keep myself together. Andy was having trouble too. When finished, we had about 15 min before our next appt in the Hem/Onc clinic. Gabi wanted a snack. As we waited while she ate, I could only think of what this could mean and the outlook was horrid. I tried so hard to act normal, but it was difficult. When we finally got to the Hem/Onc clinic, Andy sent word to Gabi's oncologist through a nurse to please check with radiology about her CT scan because something wasn't right. Meanwhile, my heart was just racing and I swear that Gabi could hear it beating right out of my chest. I just couldn't help myself thinking about all those children who've had relapses and those who've passed away. Were we about to add Gabi to that list? Then my mind began to move down that dark path of "What will her treatment be?" "Will there be any options for her?" "Oh my God, what will we do?" It was pure torture. I cannot speak for Andy and haven't yet had any private time for me to ask him what was going through his mind, but as her parents, I know his was in as dark a place as mine. We finally got our answer about 40 minutes later. 40 minutes of pure terror were put to rest with Dr. Max's words of, "She's just fine."
Thank God, thank God, thank God. At that point, I lost it. The tears came flowing right in front of everyone, even Gabi, but I didn't care. They were tears of relief, tears of what might have been and tears for parents who have heard the words "the cancer is back." I cried for all. Gabi hadn't a clue what was going on! We had to explain to her what all had transpired throughout those 40 minutes. Thankfully, Dr. Max was there to help us as Andy and I were still in a sort of shock. It was the longest 40 minutes of my life. It literally felt like hours.
Dr. Max explained that the CT scanner did not get pictures all the way through Gabi's chest, only half-way. It was also positioned in such a way that it didn't get the views of the bottom part of her lungs.This is why they had to take more pics. What upsets me was that the techs could see that I was noticeably upset...why they didn't tell me what was going on? I don't know...but it sure would have saved a lot of unnecessary stress! How hard is it to say, "Sorry, these pictures didn't get the area we needed and we have to do them again."? I also wish they would use their "poker faces" when they know parents are on edge and watching their every move. Anytime you see a distressed look on a tech's face during lifesaving scans (not to mention on a cancer patient), I don't care who you are, you will become concerned.
All stress aside, Gabi is healthy and still remains NED. Andy and I are mentally exhausted, but grateful for the outcome. We are praying for a good night's sleep because Lord knows, we didn't get one last night.
Thank you all for your prayers and for sticking with us!
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