Ana | CaringBridge

Ana’s Story

Meet Ana.  She's a middle school girl with a generous spirit and a heart of gold.  She's endured a lot in her young life, and taught us more lessons than we've taught her. She started fighting cancer when she was just 3 years old, blowing our minds with her resilience and perseverance.  She's knocked out years of chemotherapy treatments and traveled to the East coast for radiation.  After 4 years of stable images, she's rising up once again to battle new tumor growth.

Our family lives in Rochester, Minnesota.  Kevin works at the Mayo Clinic as a nurse anesthetist.  Heather is a very part time Occupational Therapist, but focuses most on being a  full time mom.  We have two extraordinary daughters. Ana was born in 2005 and Elsa was born in 2007.  (Clearly, well ahead of Frozen, in case you were wondering)

Ana started having early morning vomiting just after her 3rd birthday in July 2008, and we discovered a tumor in her brainstem.  It is in a very delicate place, making it inoperable.  She underwent a suboccipital crainectomy and a port placement in October 2008. The biopsy revealed a grade 1 pilocytic astrocytoma.  Ana started chemotherapy infusions of vincristine and carboplatin.  By March of 2009, she began to show symptoms of peripheral neuropathy in her lower extremities.  Her gait changed as she needed to compensate for foot drop caused by the toxicity of the chemo.  Her dosage of vincristine was decreased by 20% to prevent this issue from worsening.  She persevered, and finished the chemo regime in January 2010. 

Just before her 7th birthday, a previously unidentified T2 hyper intensity was found on her scan.  Unfortunately, there was significant tumor growth that followed in October 2012.  Ana started another chemotherapy protocol, this time of the drug Vinblastine, receiving weekly infusions for 9 more months.  This drug was able to slow the tumor, but not stop the growth of her tumor, and more aggressive treatment was needed. We traveled to Boston for 6 weeks of proton beam radiation which gave us 4 years of life-without-treatment.  November 2017 scans revealed more hyper intentsity, and we return to the drawing board.

Newest Update

Journal entry by The vanKoeverden Family

I was thrown off at my recent appointments.  They changed the type of MRI, so it took double the time and was a lot more uncomfortable.  If you know me, you know I really hate surprises at doctor visits.  But it’s official, the time has come.  My tumor is growing and I need to have chemo soon, or I will have to deal with symptoms.  I would much rather begin the treatments, so the plan is to start in a couple weeks.  I knew this was coming, so I’m not really surprised.  There are 2 best chemo options now, they do different things, with different pros and cons, and we need to make a choice.  I don’t think I’m going to loose all my hair, so that’s good news.

The bad news…my doctor is moving away.  Over the past 8 years, she always has had time for me, listened to me and answered all my questions. She’s always made me feel like my cancer is inside my body, but it’s not something that I’ve needed to worry about all the time.  Whenever my tumor has grown, she’s given me all the treatment options and then lets me choose.  I trust her, and I know she doesn’t keep secrets about my MRI’s, so I don’t have to worry.  What I have always liked best, though, is that she treats me like I have a meaning and like I am important.  I really wish that Dr. Rao could be here with me for my next treatments.  She’s truly the best cancer doctor out there…she has saved my life (actually, more than once). 

I might be feeling yucky and have to miss some school over the next year.  But I know many of you are wiling to be my support.  I feel so lucky to have that, and appreciate it very much, more than you probably know.  Get your flu shots, people.  And send up a prayer as I get rolling here.  It’s go time.

Love, Ana


PS:  We are setting up a Face Book Page so we can post some pics and quick thoughts along the way, to supplement Ana’s CaringBridge updates.   Check out Ana’s Journey @AlongsideAna. Thanks for being such a wonderful community!  Love, Heather & Kevin



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