In August 2008, at age 14, our daughter Shea was diagnosed with nodular sclerosing Hodgkins lymphoma. For nearly four years, she underwent a variety of treatment protocols, including two stem cell transplants and experimental t-cell therapy, before she passed away on July 25, 2012.
We remain extremely grateful for the wonderful support from friends, family, members of our community, even perfect strangers who reached out to help ease the burden of medical and travel expenses related to experimental treatment in New York.
Shea's journey began July 2008, when she began to lose her voice. Visits to the pediatrician ruled out mono and strep, so we were referred to an ear-nose-throat specialist. He found that her left vocal cord wasn't functioning (unilateral vocal cord paralysis). He felt it was probably caused by a virus, but ordered a brain MRI and CT scans of neck and chest to rule out an obstruction of the nerve leading to the vocal cord.
On Friday, August 22, Shea underwent the tests. We were shocked to learn that there was a grapefruit-sized mass in her chest, on the right side in the area between the heart and the collarbone. Because the mass surrounded her windpipe, we were told to come into Children's Memorial Hospital immediately. Apparently they feared that she could stop breathing in her sleep.
When they saw her, however, they were impressed by her healthy appearance, and also by the fact that she had survived two weeks of band camp without experiencing any shortness of breath or fatigue. In fact, other than the strained voice, she showed no other symptoms. This was very good news. But after a painful biopsy surgery, we heard the words no parent is prepared to hear. Shea had Hodgkins Lymphoma, nodular sclerosing variant. Further tests showed her cancer to be stage 2A.
Between the end of August and December 1, 2008, Shea underwent five rounds of chemotherapy. Her treatment included the following:
Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) - day 1 and 2 Bleomycin - day 1 and 8 Vincristine - day 1 and 8 Etoposide (VP-16) - days 1,2,3 Prednisone - days 1-7 Cytoxan - day 1 Mesna - day 1 Zofran - as needed for nausea Bactrim - 3 days/week Neulasta - once every 3 weeks
While Shea was able to have most of her treatment as an outpatient, she was admitted to Children's twice after spiking fevers. She battled a bacterial infection as well as an allergic reaction to Bleomycin, and we learned to be especially cautious when her counts were low. In spite of it all, Shea managed to keep her spirits up and her crazy sense of humor intact, thanks to the support of family, friends, neighbors and strangers. It took a tough situation to make us understand how truly blessed we were.
A month after completing chemotherapy, Shea had 14 days of radiation -- the last day was January 22, 2009. She was OT -- off treatment -- until April, when PET and CT scans showed no significant changes. Unfortunately, she began to display some worrisome symptoms (itching, night sweats, weight loss) a few weeks later. Scans at the end of June showed that her disease had returned and had spread to her lungs. Because of her new symptoms and the increase in the tumor's size, her Hodgkin's Lymphoma was then staged at 4B. Chemotherapy began again on June 29th, with a stem cell transplant to follow in the future.
Thank you to all the prayer warriors out there who supported us during those difficult months. We are SO GRATEFUL for all the support, encouragement, meals, gifts, cards, calls and prayers. Friends and family near and far kept us going during long and arduous months that wore hard on our family. We can never repay the kindness that we received during Shea's illness and following her passing.
Thanks for visiting Shea's site, and be sure to leave a note in the guestbook. We love hearing from our friends!
The Anderluh Family
Liz, John, Megan (26), Shea (forever 18), and Jamie (18)