To look at Jane Anna Hawkins, you would never know the 5-month-old was sick. But the smiley, happy baby—the youngest child of Simrall Pratt Hawkins and Peter Hawkins—has been battling neuroblastoma since she was just 2 months old.
Jane Anna's father, Peter, has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)—a thickening of the heart muscle that can interfere with blood flowing away from the heart. Because two of Jane Anna's brothers have tested positive for the HCM gene, Jane Anna's pediatrician, Jane Jones, MD, referred the family to the Cardiology Department at Children's Hospital at Erlanger when she detected a heart murmur in the baby.
Doctors told the Hawkins family they thought the tumor was neuroblastoma and ordered a computed tomography (CT) scan in the CT Ranch at Children's Hospital to get a better look. The Hawkins family was completely unaware at the time that the ranch was funded by Emily's Power for a Cure—an organization that would soon become very important to them.
When doctors diagnosed Jane Anna with low-risk, Stage I neuroblastoma, Simrall's sister-in-law instantly introduced her via Facebook to her friends Wendy Ransom, President of Emily's Power for a Cure, and Mindy Sanders, an Emily's Power for a Cure board member whose son, Colin, had beaten neuroblastoma several years ago.
"Words cannot describe the level of shock, fear, and sadness you initially experience when you learn your child has cancer," Simrall says. "Emily's Power for a Cure has been a tremendous help during this difficult time. It has made me feel not so powerless to this terrible disease, and it has given me strength and a voice for childhood cancer."
Jane Anna underwent surgery to remove the tumor a few months after her diagnosis. Because the cancer was so low risk, no chemo was necessary. Instead, the Hawkins were told that Jane Anna would only need follow-up CT scans to monitor the disease. Unfortunately, their happiness about having the tumor removed was short lived.
"Jane Anna's surgery was October 9, 2014, and our first follow-up scan post surgery was not clear," Simrall remembers. "The tumor came back in the same place, but it was bigger and pressing on the spinal cord area as well as a few liver lesions. Now, it is Stage III."
Now 5 months old, Jane Anna is undergoing chemo to shrink the tumor and the liver lesions, and she eventually will have surgery to remove the remaining tumor.
More than likely, Jane Anna has had neuroblastoma for her entire life thus far, but her mother is confident that will soon no longer be the case.
"Jane Anna might just be 5 months old, but she is a warrior," says Simrall, who points out that her daughter has continued to smile throughout the entire process. "We can all learn a little something from this little fighter. I am proud to be her mom and I look forward to the day that my precious Jane Anna will be cancer free and just be able to be little girl like she deserves to be—like all children deserve to be!"