When most parents plan a birthday party, their biggest concerns are the flavor of the cake and the color of the balloons. When Melody Hudson's parents planned their daughter's first birthday, the party had to be coordinated around neuroblastoma treatment and hospital stays.
Melody, who was diagnosed at age 10 months, went to the doctor after her parents, Kelly and John, found a Ping Pong ball-size lump on the side of her neck. Her pediatrician sent the Hudson family straight to the Emergency Department at Children's Hospital at Erlanger.
"As we walked out of the pediatrician's office, Melody's doctor told me this is sometimes how cancer is found," Kelly remembers. "I cried the entire way to Children's Hospital."
Melody's pediatrician was right: At the hospital, a computed tomography scan of Melody's neck detected the top of a tumor in Melody's chest, with additional tumors running in and around her spine from her neck to her pelvis. Melody had Stage 4S, intermediate-risk neuroblastoma.
"Her oncologist came into the room to break the news, and there are no words that can express the pain and worry I had," Kelly says. "Before I knew what was going on, we had a room on the floor, a surgery set for the next morning, and many, many more scans. I was terrified of the word 'cancer,' but I remember feeling so blessed when the doctor was excited to tell us Melody's cancer was considered intermediate risk."
Kelly learned about Emily's Power for a Cure shortly after Melody's diagnosis through a member of her church, who put her in touch with Wendy Ransom, President of Emily's Power for a Cure. Wendy provided information and emotional support to the Hudson family, magnets that could be sold for fundraising, and organized meal delivery while Melody was an inpatient.
"Emily's Power for a Cure has been a godsend," Kelly says. "Knowing meals were coming was one less thing I had to worry about while Melody was in the hospital. It was a blessing."
From April until August, Melody received six rounds of chemotherapy, and all of her tumors responded to the chemo and shrank. While Melody still has many tumors remaining, she no longer needs chemotherapy.
"Melody's cancer isn't gone, but more than 90 percent of her tumors are mature or dead," Kelly says, noting that Melody will undergo scans every three months to monitor the progress of her cancer. "Doctors are confident that her body will mature the rest, and no additional treatment is necessary."
Life Goes On
One of the hardest parts about Melody's diagnosis is the affect it had on Melody's older sister, Katelynn. Katelynn, 8, is a worrier, so the Hudsons had to try and remain calm and put together in front of their older daughter. Though the Ringgold, Georgia, family had to curb trips out in public due to Melody's compromised immune system, they tried to keep everything as normal as possible for their girls: Both Melody and Katelynn celebrated birthdays and had parties while Melody was in treatment.
"I realized that just because my world stopped, everyone else's didn't," Kelly says. "Neuroblastoma is a nasty disease, and no one—especially a child—should have to go through this. Emily's Power for a Cure is taking action!"