ELLA RENEE was born on October 15, 2010 to Michelle and Brian Reese. An always smiling, happy baby with a sweet chuckle, Ella is affectionately called “my little bird” by her mother. But in May 2011 Ella’s carefree life filled with stroller rides and play dates came to an abrupt halt.
Starting in late March 2011, Ella visited her pediatrician on several occasions. Her inconsolable crying and unusual fussiness was first attributed to teething and acid reflux. In a span of 5 weeks however Ella stopped babbling, lost her voice, muscle tone (hypotonic) and full use of her legs. Numerous tests were performed (upper GI, MRIs, blood tests etc.) and were all normal with the exception of an EEG. Michelle and Brian’s frustration grew as they knew in their hearts that something was not right about their “little bird”. With an intuitive sense of urgency, Ella’s parents and pediatrician scheduled an MRI of the spine. On May 19, 2011 a mass was discovered in and around Ella’s spine and in her abdomen next to her kidney. On May 20, 2011 surgery was performed on Ella’s little back to remove a section of the tumor on her spine and inside her vertebrae along her spinal cord. The following day 7 month old Ella was diagnosed with stage 3 Neuroblastoma*, a very aggressive childhood cancer.
She was treated at Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children and MD Anderson Center in Orlando, Florida. Her little body had to endure rounds of chemotherapy, blood transfusions, numerous tests, speech and physical therapy.
For families affected by Neuroblastoma, the medical costs are overwhelming. Protocol can differ in each case so many costs are not covered by medical insurance because they are considered to be experimental.
Though this experience devastated their family emotionally and financially, Michelle and Brian remained hopeful for Ella’s full recovery. Although life had thrown them a huge obstacle and the road ahead would be long and tough, they had deep faith that God was by their side and are eternally grateful that Ella chose to be part of their family.
Although Ella continues to have remaining tumor left in her body, she was pronounced cancer free in 2013. Please pray that her body continues to remain healthy, for God’s healing hands, and for Michelle and Brian to remain strong and hopeful. Ella continues to have daily struggles and reminders from her cancer, but she is a happy little girl who was able to beat cancer and she is simply adored by all.
*Neuroblastoma is a rare childhood cancer that develops from the tissues that form the sympathetic nerve system (the part of the nervous system that controls body functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, bowels, levels of certain hormones). It affects 10 children in every million, usually before the age of 5. In the US an average of 650 children are diagnosed every year, compared to 70 in Canada and 80 in the UK.
The term “Neuro” indicates “nerves”, while blastoma refers to a cancer that affects immature or developing cells. The cause of Neuroblastoma is unknown. Studies have shown that genetics and environmental factors are not involved.
Source: American cancer Society and “Neuroblastoma” Norman J Lacayo. MD, Clinical Assistant Prof, Dept. of Pediatrics Stanford University and Lucile Salter Packard Children’s Hospital, February 2005