Sarah Huston wins battle against eye cancer
On June 29, 2006, the family went to Minnesota for Sarah's second chemotherapy treatment. The medical professionals were encouraged and thought Sarah might have better vision than first predicted.
The third treatment was in mid-July. This time the doctors were concerned that the tumor in Sarah's left eye was not shrinking and that the optic nerve might be violated. They wanted to remove the eye immediately. Having heard this before, the Hustons again sought a second opinion. Medical information was forwarded to Wills Eye Institute in Philadelphia, where the physicians felt it was not necessary to remove the eye immediately.
After returning to Midland, the Hustons were contacted by Pam Bergsma, founder of the Joey Bergsma Retinoblastoma Awareness Foundation. Bergsma had stopped at a gas station while passing through Kadoka, and saw one of the fundraiser cans for Sarah. She recommended several new doctors.
The Hustons had contacted the Cancer Society for Children to get recommendations of doctors who had dealt with this cancer - they were the same as suggested by Bergsman. A new team of doctors would see Sarah on August 9th.
Around August 2, Sarah exhibited reactions when receiving some of her medications. The Hustons visited the Philip emergency room where Dr. Coen Klopper took blood cultures and gave Sarah antibiotics.
The Hustons traveled to
California, a 1,500 mile trip, but when they arrived for the appointment, the results of the blood cultures identified a bacteria that could cause heart damage. Because of this dangerous infection around the line that was in Sarah's chest, she was admitted to the hospital where the medical personnel changed her antibiotics and removed the line. An echo cardiogram confirmed that there was no heart damage.
The Hustons had to wait a week before a new line could be placed in Sarah's arm, for another eye examination and for chemo to be re-started. The family returned home with a new line in Sarah's arm, a line which would be replaced during her next visit with a permanent port in her chest.
Sarah had another fever and blood infection in late August for which she spent the rest of the month in Rapid City Regional Hospital. Sarah came home again on IV antibiotics.
The Hustons left for California on September 3rd for the September 5th appointment. The doctors put in the port on the 6th, did chemo on the 7th, and the Hustons started back on the 8th.
In early October, the doctors pronounced that the chemotherapy had probably done all it could. They suggested starting radiation treatments; a four week procedure. The Hustons have friends in Riverside, Calif, (about 60 miles away) who hosted Sarah and June on the weekends. Sarah did not receive treatments on weekends, "I was so grateful to be able to leave the city then," said June.
Radiation treatments were finished November 2nd - Sarah's first birthday. "It was wonderful to be done," said June. They were scheduled to return just after Christmas for a check-up, but Sarah contracted the GI flu and they had to reschedule for January 11th.
"Our check-up was a great one," said June. "The tumor cells had not rejuvenated! The medical team will not need to see Sarah for four months.
"She has vision, but until she can tell us what she can see, no one will know how good that vision is," said June. "Sarah is able to walk and play. She can recognize familiar people up to about 20 feet away. We are very thankful she has that. She has some big milestones ahead of her such as cataracts. If the tumors do not reoccur in the first year, they probably won't, is what the experts have told us. We will keep praying for healing."
The cancer cells are dead though the tumors are still over the top of the optic nerve. There is still a risk of losing either eye, particularly her left eye. A chance still exists that a cancer cell could re-start.
Doctors will not estimate what amount of vision Sarah has or will have. Her weight is below average, she is petite anyway and the doctors want 14-month-old Sarah to gain weight.
"Sarah's eyes look different, some damage from radiation of bone around eyes maybe, they seem sunken and smaller because of this," said June. "Her eyes are crossed now, and are going to be in order for her eyes to get the best view of things. Her eyes are blue, but turning green, just like what happened with her sister, Samantha.
"Samantha has not had an easy deal, having a sister who is sick and parents who are gone. She is happy to have her sister home," said June.
"Sarah's immune system is getting back on track, her counts are about normal, and she can get her usual well-baby shots probably this summer," said June. "We are holding up a lot better now, we can stay home and be a family, it's certainly been a challenge. Everybody has been so supportive. I can't imagine how it would be if people didn't care.