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The story of 5-year-old Andrea, cancer sufferer

Andrea’s problems began shortly after she was born, in the winter of 2007. First, a greenish spot appeared on her abdomen. It looked like a receding bruise, so it didn’t raise any suspicions first. But then similar spots appeared elsewhere, and they soon covered the little girl’s entire body. Andrea’s mother felt terror when she realized that there was something very wrong with her baby.

A biopsy at the hospital confirmed that the little girl had cancer. This is the most awful piece of news for any parent. Andrea’s mother felt that the ground was going to open up and swallow her…

She didn’t even have time to recover when the doctors told her they would start the baby on chemotherapy. The first treatments were aimed at making the tumors shrink. Andrea handled the initial doses well, and further tests seemed to show that they were also effective, the tumors began to recede.

The second phase of the planned course of treatment involved stronger chemotherapy drugs. Unfortunately, along with the tumors, they also had a severe negative effect on Andrea’s entire body. During the treatment, her intestines became dysfunctional due to severe damage to mucous membranes and infections, among other things. The little girl’s condition became critical, and a life-saving operation was scheduled. Luckily, antibiotics helped her recover somewhat, but she still had to have a major operation.

During this important operation, an attempt was made to remove a cancerous focus in Andrea’s armpit. Cancer cells were being transported around her body by the lymphatic system from there. There were metastatic tumors on the back of her neck, on her head under the skin, her adrenal glands, in her pleura… During the operation, the surgeons also tried to remove as many tumors as possible from her pleura. Due to the severity of the situation, amputation of her arm was also raised as a possibility, but her mother refused to consent.

After the operation, chemotherapy was resumed. The tumors shrunk nicely, and Andrea was scheduled for a bone-marrow transplant. But before that operation could be performed, the potency of the chemotherapy was upped by a factor of four or five, which destroyed the girl’s old, diseased bone-marrow completely. The transplantation was a success, but the drastic side effects of the therapy that had preceded it only began to make themselves felt afterwards. Andrea’s skin began to come off over large areas where an inflammatory reaction occurred. Various ointments and drugs were used to counter that, and they more or less succeeded in alleviating the child’s suffering.

Andrea spent two months in a sterile box at a time of life when a child perhaps needs her mother’s touch the most. Due to the stringent hygiene requirements, both mother and child practically only had uncovered skin on their foreheads, so when they wished to express their love, they touched each other there. “Andrea, let’s shake heads!”, her mother often told her.

After a long period of convalescence, Andrea began to get stronger. In her chest, behind one clavicle there is still a remnant of a tumor, but it is probably composed of dead, inactive cells, as it is not growing, and it may even disappear in time. The controls have produced good results, but, unfortunately, Andrea is behind her peers in physical development: her bones, for instance, are at the level of a three-year-old, although she is almost six now. Her baby vaccines have been repeated, but she still has to get the compulsory vaccinations due at age six. Andrea loves going to the kindergarten, and if all goes well, she can start school next year. Since she went home, she has really blossomed, the playpen is full of her toys, and we have personally heard her impish tittering. Even today, if she sees that her mum is troubled for any reason, Andrea will still say: “Let’s shake heads!”

Andrea lives with her severely ill mother and her 16-year-old older sister. The family finds it difficult to keep body and soul together, and keeping their apartment is also a problem. They welcome any help.

We wish Andrea a happy, healthy life without any suffering from the bottom of our hearts.

Andrea has been in our family support program since 1 October 2012.