Abby is a very lively and social child. She enjoys everyone she meets and is a ray of sunshine in the world. Abby is very bright and excels in school. Abby loves math and science. These are her passions. Abby participates in competitive musical theater, takes voice and piano lessons, participates in church choir and has recently started playing the trumpet in band.
We adopted Abby from China at age 2. Abby’s sister, Jenna, is also a cancer survivor. Jenna’s vision deteriorated as a result of her brain tumors and she subsequently started kindergarten at the Low Vision School. The day we saw the low vision resources in our area, my husband and I decided to adopt a visually impaired child from China. We chose Abby. Abby was born with a malformed eye. We didn’t know if she had vision in her other eye. When she arrived, it became clear that she had vision in her seeing eye, but her malformed eye was causing her pain so we had it removed. During the procedure, the surgeon pulled out a massive cancerous growth, Retinoblastoma. It had exceeded the eyeball and was systemic. Abby underwent aggressive chemotherapy and proton beam radiation. She was cured. Abby has a prosthetic eye and will likely have to have reconstructive surgery as an adult. She has full vision in her seeing eye.
Six years later, Abby started having massive amounts of blood in her urine. Tests were initially inconclusive. It was either a cyst or a tumor. As months progressed, it became less likely that it was a cyst and more likely a tumor. Surgery was scheduled to have Abby’s kidney removed….an open radical nephrectomy. The kidney had to be removed intact in case it was cancerous, otherwise cancer could be spread throughout the body. After surgery, Abby was diagnosed with Renal Cell Carcinoma. The surgeon was able to remove it completely so no further treatment was necessary. Abby can live a full life with one kidney.
After extensive genetic testing, it was determined that Abby’s initial cancer was spontaneous. The kidney cancer was likely a side effect from the strong chemotherapy utilized to cure it. Abby has been stable for 2 years now. Her prognosis is unknown.
Cancer has profoundly affected our individual and family lives. This is intensified as both our children, biological and adopted, have gone through various cancer treatments spanning 12 years. A significant aftereffect of cancer has been anxiety. It is transient at times, pervasive at other. My husband and I have watched both our children go through initial treatments and both have relapsed. Both our children have experienced their own cancers, their own relapses and watched each other go through treatment. We are anxious people now. This is something we will always deal with.
All that being said, I am grateful for the cancer experience. We have been surrounded by amazing people…those who walk the journey with us and those who have supported us in the journey. We appreciate every moment we are given in life. We are better at prioritizing our budget and our tasks. We are stronger than we ever imagined we could be. Our faith in God has been reaffirmed. We are imperfect individuals that live a life of gratitude together as a family.