Riley’s story begins on the soccer field. Since the day she was born she spent her weekends watching her older sisters play soccer. At age 4 she started playing recreational soccer and quickly developed a love for the game. Riley was 7 when she asked why her sister continued playing when her season was over. We explained to her that Haley plays year round competitive soccer so of course Riley wanted to do the same. She began playing for the Manteca Futbol Club “Benfica” competitive team coached by Manuel Pires. Riley was a strong defender that always worked hard in practice to improve her game. The hard work was paying off and the improvement in her game was obvious to anyone watching her play until it wasn’t. In the summer of 2012 Riley began to struggle on the soccer field. Although her effort was still there, the results no longer were. As the season went on, she started complaining of headaches and dizziness while on the field. There was also a noticeable drop off in her coordination and balance. We took her to the doctor where they diagnosed her with hypotension and told us that she needed more salt when playing so we should give her Gatorade before and during matches instead of water. The increased salt had no effect so we took her back to the doctor and impressed upon them our concern so they requested a full workup on her. During this same time we noticed that she appeared slightly cross eyed when she came out of an indoor game. On November 29th, 2012 while waiting for the approval from the insurance company for the full workup, we decided to take her to the ophthalmologist to see if they could explain the eye issue. Little did we know, our lives would be changed forever that day.
Upon examining Riley’s eyes, the doctor noticed that her optic nerve was swollen and advised that she be taken to the hospital immediately. An MRI taken at St. Joseph’s medical center revealed a possible tumor in her brain. She was taken by ambulance to UCSF medical center where a subsequent MRI confirmed that she had a large tumor between her cerebellum and brain stem. The tumor had blocked the flow of cerebrospinal fluid from her brain to her spine creating increased intracranial pressure which was causing her symptoms (headaches, double vision, and coordination problems). She was medicated and monitored closely while a specialized team was assembled to perform the tumor resection. On December 4th, Riley was in surgery for nine hours to remove the mass. Riley’s surgery was a success, in that the tumor was fully resected, however, she was stricken with Posterior Fossa Syndrome which left her unable to speak and difficulty with eating and drinking.
Our worst fears were realized when pathology determined the tumor to be cancerous. Her cancer is known as medulloblastoma which falls in the middle risk category. Left untreated it has a 90% reoccurrence rate however successful treatments have resulted in an 80% cure rate. Her medical team determined that her course of treatment would require a regimen of radiation and chemotherapy for the cancer along with extensive speech, occupational, and physical therapy for the PFS. The full treatment will consist of both inpatient and outpatient visits and last approximately 60 weeks ending sometime in mid 2014.