At 4 years old, shortly after purchasing our first home and the arrival of a new baby sister, Stellablue Woods was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a childhood kidney cancer. In a short, 24-hour period, our family was completely uprooted. We moved from our log cabin up Trail Creek to the parking lot at Seattle Children’s Hospital, where we were to spend the majority of the next 2 years fighting cancer. In a matter of just a few short hours, our lives had changed permanently and dramatically. We had gone from living in the mountains to living in the city, from running a successful construction company to spending all of our time fighting cancer, barely managing to keep the business alive. We had gone from a happy, healthy family, to a stressed-out, helpless family, fighting desperately for the life of our child.
And the news would continue to get worse as the pathology from Stellablue's tumor came back and we realized that her particular version of Wilms was about as bad as it gets, that while Wilms tumor in general had a pretty good cure rate with the standard treatments of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, Stella was going to fall into that category of the disease which had a particularly poor prognosis. The doctors told us they would treat with an attempt to cure, but they just didn't have that much hope for success. We went through 9 months of treatment in Seattle, and got the "all-clear" to move home. CT scans showed no evidence of disease, and we moved back to MT, scarred but ready to heal. It was a great summer, and I think we were all optimistic that we had gotten the cancer, that Stellablue had miraculously beat it.
In October 2012, our worlds were rocked again as CT scans showed tumors growing back. The attitude at this point in time was if it didn't work the first time, we would now hit it harder. We decided to go with the recommended protocol of extremely high dose chemotherapy followed by stem-cell transplant and rescue. This was brutal and something no family should have to go through (Stellablue suffered through 27 straight days of fevers never dropping below 105, heartrate never falling below 180, severe mucositus from one end to the other (her mouth and tongue the size of a softball), and all of her skin got brown and fell off, not to mention the standards of constant nausea and diarrhea. No parent should have to put their child through this treatment and its life-long side effects, but our hope is that we have bought some more time for Stella...
Stellablue, being the champ that she is, powered right through treatment, and while the recovery was long, she continues to get better every day. Sixty days post transplant, we moved back home to Montana (just in time for the last good snow storm of the year-something we really missed out in Seattle). While the likelihood of relapse is high, we hope and pray that we will continue to get the "all-clear." Stellablue continues to run around and enjoy the Montana sunshine, and we try to live one day at a time.