CLEVELAND — It was a Sunday afternoon in Brecksville, Sonja Crouch says everything was normal. She says her 5-year-old daughter, Audrey, was being regular kid.
“It was pretty out of nowhere for us. We hadn't noticed any different activity. She didn't have any headaches or anything,” she explained.
Suddenly, Audrey had a seizure.
“We called an ambulance. They came and got her. They did the CT scan and found her tumor,” Crouch said.
An MRI scan revealed Audrey had a rare brain cancer called Astroblastoma. Crouch described the moment, saying “it was a real eye-opener that this can happen to anybody at any time.“
Audrey’s treatment at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital started almost immediately and her tumor was successfully removed.
“It is every parent's nightmare, and I don't think anyone could be prepared to take such news,” said Pediatric Neuropsychologist, Dr. Neha Patel.
Dr. Patel explained Audrey recovered with no issues, but they quickly realized the tumor they removed was different.
“It is a high grade. It is a malignant tumor,” Patel said. “The high-grade glioma in adults is almost life-threatening, but as in children, there are some tumors that behave very aggressive and can impact their life as well as others.”
However, Patel says kids like Audrey can live happily with proper treatment.
“In Audrey's case, they didn't know until some of the molecular and genetic testing came in whether or not she was going to need any future treatments,” Crouch said.
Through genetic mapping, which developed within the last five years, Audrey’s doctors were able to properly choose a treatment and give Audrey the best chance at keeping her tumor from coming back.
But Audrey’s fertility was at risk. Still, Crouch believed in her daughter’s doctors.
“There are always, like, seven steps ahead of us," she said.
Patel and her team performed an ovarian preservation surgery. She says Audrey, was their first patient where they did ovarian preservation. They took a small piece of ovarian tissue and froze it out for the future.
While Audrey recovered, the genetic mapping used to treat her brought on another discovery within her mom. Crouch says the results showed she had a genetic mutation that increases her chances for cancers.
“I wasn't too surprised because it came out of the family history that they wanted to test it and since then, they've done a lot of screening already for the different types of cancer,” she said. “Luckily, they've all come back clean so far.”
They’ve come a long way since that one Sunday in Brecksville, and while things have not been what they expected, Crouch and Audrey are living their new normal.
“Audrey has been a real trooper,” Crouch said.
Now, Audrey is pushing through with six months of treatment left.
“The team that we have here and her positivity has made it so much easier to get through,” said Crouch.