Mighty Girl Perseveres Through the Hardships of Childhood Cancer
It is hard to walk away from a visit with 13-year-old London without a smile. She has gone through the darkest storms and still come out with sunshine in her heart. London’s humor and liveliness shines through as she advises children beginning cancer treatment to “eat lots of protein and ice cream, and get a Netflix subscription!”
London lives in North Carolina with her father Art, mother Dee Dee and younger brother, Wilson. Just a couple years ago she was very active, playing basketball and swimming at the local YMCA. In January of 2015 she started complaining of pains in her leg after practice. Her parents assumed she was working herself a bit too hard but made an appointment with her pediatrician to be sure.
After numerous appointments with orthopedists and physical therapists, frustrations began to build. London’s pain had increased to the point that she couldn’t lay down comfortably to sleep at night and needed crutches to move around. Her parents were done waiting for answers and took London to the emergency room for immediate X-rays.
The X-rays brought answers, but also confirmed their worst fears. In a hospital room filled with medical team members they heard the word “cancer” for the first time. A huge mass had developed at the bottom of London’s spine.
“We told London about her cancer in stages. First, she had a tumor. Second, the tumor was cancer. Third, she was not going back to school this year. And fourth, she would lose her hair,” Art said. Though they didn’t know it yet, The National Children’s Cancer Society (NCCS) was standing by to help them navigate the difficult emotional and financial trials of childhood cancer.
In total, London went through six rounds of chemo and 27 rounds of radiation. Her initial scans seemed promising and detected no cancer.
Yet in May of 2016 London’s cancer returned. Understandably, London’s mom and dad were devastated as medical professionals delivered what Art described as a “doom and gloom” prognosis; little could be done. But they refused to accept doom for their daughter, and began to travel the country to save London’s life.
Art and Dee Dee are owners of a construction business, and as entrepreneurs, they found it difficult to continue providing for their family while also shouldering the financial toll of childhood cancer.
They say the generosity of the NCCS and their case manager was a “godsend.” The NCCS paid for flights to Texas, Minnesota and New York. Their cab fare and nearly eight weeks of hotel accommodations were costs they didn’t have to stress about during their difficult journeys.
The NCCS is committed to providing financial support for families to get to the best treatment possible, no matter what. For London, this meant working with a phenomenal team at the Mayo Clinic. They saved London’s leg by utilizing leading-edge, minimally invasive 3D mapping technology to treat her tumor. After three days of surgery and a pelvis rebuilt with titanium, London started her long road of recovery.
Months later and back at home, London worked to return to life and navigate her “new normal.” In February of 2017 it became apparent her wounds were not healing well, so they returned to the Mayo Clinic. London’s medical team at Mayo decided to operate and during surgery, they found three different types of infections that went down into her titanium pelvis. London went home to endure six months of IVs and medications administered by an in-home nurse.
But London didn’t get better, she became increasingly sick and couldn’t eat anything. More travel and more surgery was ahead as her intestines had migrated into her metal pelvis.
“The NCCS is one of the best organizations we have worked with. We would need to travel with very little notice and our case manager was easy to work with and made the process simple,” Art said.
London has gone through two more surgeries since then, and has more in the future. She will continue having scans every few months and the NCCS will remain at her family’s side throughout her care.
Now, London is cancer-free, singing songs, playing her ukulele, getting straight A’s, and playing with her brother. Above all, she is happy, able to return to the love that surrounds her from her friends and family.