At age three-and-a-half, Audrey Robbins should have been playing outside, going to birthday parties, and riding her bike with her sisters. Instead, the spunky Cleveland, Tennessee, resident spent her days at the Children's Hospital at Erlanger, undergoing treatments that no child should ever have to endure.
Audrey's parents, Elizabeth and Michael, will never forget the events of April 4, 2012. They initially took Audrey to the doctor for a low-grade fever and malaise—what they thought might be a urinary tract infection. After they left the doctor, though, the couple noticed a large lump on Audrey's left side and knew they needed more answers.
The next day, the terrified toddler returned to the doctor for a chest X-ray, which was promptly followed by blood work, an ultrasound, and a computed tomography (CT) scan. The results were terrifying to the family.
"We were told Audrey either had a Wilms' tumor [a rare kidney tumor] or neuroblastoma," Elizabeth remembers. "Surgery was scheduled for the next day, and the doctors removed Audrey's 1.2-pound primary tumor. We learned about a week later that she had stage 2B MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma."
Over the next few months, Audrey endured five rounds of chemotherapy, one stem cell harvest, one bone marrow transplant, 12 sessions of radiation, and six months of monoclonal antibody therapy—all designed to help rid her body of neuroblastoma. She's experienced heavy nausea from her chemo, but she has long-lasting health issues, too, and now wears hearing aids as a result of hearing loss caused by the aggressive chemotherapy.
The Robbins family learned about Emily's Power for a Cure just a week before Audrey's diagnosis, while Audrey was undergoing her CT scan at the Children's Hospital at Erlanger. Emily's Power for a Cure had purchased the CT scanner for the hospital, and a cowgirl-themed mural on the wall of the CT waiting area depicts 2-year-old Emily Ransom, for whom the foundation is named.
"The child life specialist with us in the CT Ranch explained the little girl on the wall had neuroblastoma and that her mom had raised money for the CT scanner," Elizabeth says. "I asked how Emily was doing and started crying when I was told she had passed."
Emily's Power for a Cure had provided the Robbins family with a lot of hope and a place to turn with questions. The family is also incredibly impressed with the money and awareness EPFAC has raised.
"I would like people who don't know about neuroblastoma to understand how little funding goes toward pediatric cancer," Elizabeth says. "That needs to change so another child doesn't have to spend a year of his or her life incredibly ill from medicines just to have a 50 percent chance to live five years."