When Milan’s right hip and leg seemed swollen, the initial thought was that it was compensating for her recently-broken left ankle. But the swelling continued and eventually an ultrasound identified a grapefruit-sized mass. A biopsy confirmed it was cancer – an Alveolar Soft-Part Sarcoma. As if this was not already shocking and devastating enough, Milan’s family soon learned the cancer had spread to her lungs and her brain.
Milan began six weeks of radiation in order to shrink the tumour in her leg. On Jan. 18, 2016, she underwent a two-part operation at the Alberta Children’s Hospital to remove the sarcoma and then reconstruct her leg and the cavity the tumour had left. To do this, the team of specialists removed muscle, tissue and blood vessels from her other leg. The next step, in February 2016, was a radiosurgery at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre, where lasers targeted the single lesion spotted in her brain. Then, in March, Milan had to have another two-part surgery at the Children’s – firstly to re-repair her right leg with more skin off her hip and then to try and remove the 13 lesions on her lungs with coils inserted into her back on needles.
In July, Milan began having debilitating migraines. An MRI showed there was swelling in her brain, likely due to the radiosurgery she’d had to remove the lesion. Though specialists had hoped to do another lung surgery to remove a lingering lesion there, it was called off because of the risks associated with the brain swelling. Milan began steroid treatment, which came with challenging side effects including water retention and stretch marks. However, Milan has taken everything in stride, says her mom, Linda. She has been brave, positive and strong throughout her treatment despite the pain and struggle she’s faced. That’s thanks, in part, to the strong connection the family has made with specialists at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, which Linda calls their “second home.”
The family is grateful for everyone they’ve worked with at the hospital – from surgeons (Milan and Dr. Beaudry share the same dry sense of humour) to oncologists (the family is thankful for the calm, gentle demeanor or Dr. Guilcher and the way he talks to Milan like an adult) and the wonderful nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
To hear more stories like this or to donate to the 2017 Caring for Kids Radiothon in support of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation visit www.KidsRadiothon.com