At age 4 she started playing AYSO soccer with me (her dad) coaching her. Coaching my daughters was one of the most fulfilling experiences I have had as a father. Katie excelled, so at age 6 we decided to enroll her in a competitive club soccer program with the Southern California Blues.
In Jan/Feb of 09 during the Blues run for the California State Championship, we noticed a slight difference in her energy level but dismissed it as her just needing a break for a few weeks. During that time I also noticed her struggling to keep her feet under her. She appeared to labor to get up to speed and she seemed to have lost some of her quickness. Again, I dismissed it due to her recent growth spurt.
In the spring of 09 her club team took a much needed 2+ month break after they lost in the GU9 State Championship game. In this "off-season" period for the Blues, she continued to play soccer for the Ladera Ranch AYSO GU10 Plus team. That team won the championship for south Orange County and the end of season Area Tournament. At the same time, Katie worked out at an indoor conditioning facility.
During the early summer months her club team played in several soccer tournaments. Before the first Surf Cup tournament game on Saturday morning July 25th Katie threw up. About 2 days prior, Katie had complained about some minor but persistent abdomen pain. We thought she might have the flu, but she felt better after throwing up so we let her play. She was just not herself. She sat out during the 2nd game Saturday afternoon only to wake up on Sunday morning feeling better and wanting to play again.
Then the following Monday, July 27th, I decided to take her in to the local Urgent Care facility to get examined. Thank God for the perceptive Physicians Assistant that saw Katie named Michelle B. She just didn't think things seemed right and ordered an abdominal x-ray and ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a "mass" near Katie's stomach area so a CT scan was ordered for the next day. The result was further confirmation of the existence of the tumor.
This was the most shocking and devastating news MaryKay and I had ever heard. We cried during and in between making the calls to our family to tell them. At this point we did not know if the tumor was cancerous.
Another parent on Katie's soccer team had connections into the medical community. That parent's name is Curt Wasserman and I will forever be in debt to him. Through his actions, and those of our new friend Len Shulman, we were immediately connected to Dr. Cairo in NY. Dr. Cairo is a world renowned leader in Oncology. He was on a speaking engagement in Texas but offered his contact information to us, perfect strangers to him, so he could assist. He guided us to Dr. Marcio at CHLA, who is also a widely recognized "world expert" in Pediatric solid tumors. Dr. Marcio agreed to see Katie the next day, Friday, July 31st. That day, we were introduced to Dr. Stein, the leading pediatric surgeon at CHLA.
On August 5th, 2009, she underwent surgery to remove the tumor that was causing her abdominal pain. During surgery, it was determined that the tumor was malignant. Katie was diagnosed with Stage 3, High Risk, GanglioNeuroblastoma, nodular cancer. The egg-sized tumor growing from her right adrenal gland and the adrenal gland itself were removed as were 2 of Katie's lymph nodes. Cancer remained in her abdomen and she began chemotherapy treatments at CHLA on August 11th under the care of Dr. Araz Marachelian who we have the utmost confidence in.
In all, Katie has had 4 surgeries, 6 cycles of Chemotherapy, Stem Cell Chemotherapy, 12 rounds of Radiation, 5 rounds of ch14.18 and high doses of Accutane. She was declared N.E.D. (no evidence of disease) in December of 2009 and remains that way today.
Life has dealt us this unexpected and incredible challenge. With your prayers, and God's Good Grace, we will continue to overcome this. Please keep Katie in your prayers.