Riley was diagnosed with a rare type of pediatric cancer, Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT) in November 2009. At Riley’s 15 month wellness check up, her doctor noticed that Riley’s head circumference had gone up significantly from her twelve month check up. He asked us not to worry and to come back in one month. One month later we were told Riley’s head circumference had grown more. The doctor ordered a CT scan to see what could be causing the growth. Two hours after the completion of the CT scan, we received a phone call from the doctor’s office. We were told that a mass had been found and that we needed to get to Phoenix Children’s Hospital immediately. After arriving we were told that there was a very large mass in Riley’s brain and that it needed to be removed. At this point the world stopped. Our little girl, who was acting like a normal one year old, has a very large tumor in her head. We would have never known until the tumor had grown too large. After hearing that surgery was needed, Ryan and I decided to have Riley transferred to St. Joseph’s Barrow Neurological Institute.

On Tuesday November 3, 2009, the doctors attempted a procedure to cut off the blood supply to the tumor. This was unsuccessful. The doctors were not discouraged by this. We were reassured that Riley’s surgery could still happen. The following day, Riley underwent brain surgery to remove the tumor that was located in the left ventricle of her brain. After about nine hours we were told that surgery was complete and the surgeons felt confident with the outcome. We were informed that the tumor was malignant and it was atypical. Pathology later confirmed that it was in fact AT/RT. As of April 2010, Riley has had five rounds of intensive chemotherapy at Cardon Children’s Medical Center. As of June 2010, Riley has had a sixth round of chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant which was done in Tucson, AZ at University Medical Center. On July 2, 2010 Riley started six weeks of radiation. During this time she showed us how truly special she is. She would march into the treatment room where her nurse would have to tell the anesthesiologist that “we have a routine so please give us a minute.” Riley would then proceed to tell her nurse where to put the blood pressure cuff, where to put the pulse ox, and where all the other monitoring devices went. After treatment was finished the anesthesiologist would come tell us she was done and would be truly amazed how our two year old was such an amazing patient. She finished radiation on August 6, 2010. Riley is currently having an MRI done every four months to monitor the tumor site. So far, we have had clear scans that show “No Evidence of Disease.” 

With every clear scan, there is more hope. The severity of Riley’s cancer has been the elephant in the room. You either accept the possibility of what can happen and enjoy what every day brings or you curl up and cry. We have become an unbelievably tight, comfortable family. We cherish the time we have together and the opportunities that are presented to us. This “journey” has been a blessing to our family. It has helped show us how strong we really are. 

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