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From Chemo to 28 Rounds of Radiation: The Journey of a “Little Miracle”

It didn’t seem like anything to worry about at first. Six-month-old Gaven from Dunnville started vomiting in December 2011 after swimming at a public pool with his sister and cousin. Gaven’s mother, Brenda, assumed that he was vomiting because he had swallowed water from the pool.

“It became obvious that something was wrong when this continued over the next several days,” says Brenda. “He was also losing a lot of weight quickly, so we took him to our family doctor.”

The family doctor referred Gaven to a pediatrician, who in turn sent him to the Emergency Department at McMaster Children’s Hospital. Gaven was sent home and told to return if the vomiting continued. Within 24 hours, he was vomiting again, so he returned to the Hospital.

It was during the second visit that Gaven became lethargic and the soft spot on his head appeared to be swelling. A CT scan revealed that the vomiting was caused by a tumour.

“The tumour at the back of his head was putting pressure on his brain due to fluid building up,” explains Brenda. “He was immediately booked for emergency brain surgery to drain the fluid from his brain. They were trying to save his life.”

The surgery was a success and he was immediately booked for a follow-up surgery to remove the chicken-egg-sized tumour. Shortly before Christmas, they were given a devastating diagnosis: the biopsy revealed that Gaven had atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumour (ATRT), a rare form of aggressive cancer.

A treatment plan was put into place that would begin with Gaven undergoing three rounds of intense chemotherapy at McMaster Children’s Hospital.  

“Each round of chemo became more difficult as he weakened,” recalls Brenda. “Diarrhea was a constant, eating stopped, and of course he would vomit. His immune system was down to nothing.”

Luckily the chemotherapy was successful, and Gaven was well enough to undergo three stem cell transplants. When this too proved successful, he began 28 rounds of radiation. Gaven was an inpatient at McMaster Children’s Hospital, but he traveled to Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre each morning, where radiation treatments were administered.

“Then Gaven developed a serious blood infection and he was treated for that while continuing with his radiation every day. He went through a lot during that period.”

The blood infection was brought under control, and at the end of 28 days, Gaven finished his treatment. No signs of cancer could be found.

“A journey that started in December of 2011 came to an end in August of 2012,” says Brenda. “Gaven had survived and beaten the odds thanks to the amazing doctors and nurses. We are grateful that donor support has made such outstanding care possible for patients like Gaven. He’s our little miracle!”



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