According to the American Childhood Cancer Association, each year in the United States, about 16,000 children are diagnosed with cancer before the age of 19.
“So the rates of childhood cancer, since pediatric oncology really became an established field back in the late 60s and 70s have gone up significantly,” says Cook Children’s Pediatric Oncologist, Kenneth Heym.
In April 2016, Leah Gomez started noticing some changes in her granddaughters’ behavior.
“Her equilibrium was off. She’d walk into the corners, and I was like, ‘are you ok? Are you doing that on purpose?’ and she’s like, ‘yeah, I’m just being silly’ and I noticed it started to get worse,” says Leah Gomez.
Doctors found a cyst, the size of a golf ball on the back of Alissa’s brain. A cancerous tumor called medulloblastoma.
Leah says the hardest part was not whether to start treatment, but it was deciding which treatment is going to be best for Alissa.
“So treatment has come a long way. I would say the three main ways that we treat pediatric caner are with surgery for solid tumors, you remove them. With chemotherapy, which is just a general term for medications that will kill cancer cells and also we use radiation at times for solid tumors and for other types of disorders that we treat,” says Heym.
“She’s done so well during her circumstances and so now after radiation and everything is over we just follow-up scans to make sure nothing has come back,” says Gomez.