Baby Sammi, Now 3, Needs to Have Her Bad Eye Removed

Samantha_at_SickKids_Hospital

Samantha MacLaurin (AKA Sam or Sammi), aged 3, was born with cancer in her eyes. This rare form of cancer, called retinoblastoma, is hereditary. Her father has it, and has had one of his eyes removed, too.

Sammi is my niece and I’ve blogged about her before.

She was the youngest participant in the 2013 Relay for Life walk, and had the honour of kicking off this relay with her big brother, Alistair, her father, Charlie, her mother, Janice, and the wife of the the Thunder Bay mayor. She was the youngest participant, and is the youngest cancer survivor (to date) in Thunder Bay! She remained the youngest participant in the 2014 Relay, too.

Sam waving

Not at the relay, but cute pic of Sam as a baby, when she first learned how to wave!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITBSMvjnJa4&w=560&h=315]

A Diagnosis = Bad News

Sammi is currently at the SickKids hospital in Toronto. She’s been there since last Tuesday, when she went for her regular check-up. She’s been cancer-free for the past year, so our family expected her to be okay this time, which is why we were so shocked when we learned that she has a mass (a tumour) growing behind her bad eye. (She has had cancer in both eyes, but one eye is better than the other. We refer to her right eye as her “bad” eye.)

We were devastated to learn that her bad eye has to be removed, too.

Sammi also needs 6 rounds of chemotherapy. The poor kid. Each round will occur three weeks after the previous one. Then they will be harvesting her bone marrow, too.

To prepare her for treatment, Sammi had to have another port put into her chest. She had one put in her when she was a baby, but had it removed in 2014. She had surgery for this the other day, and was not allowed to eat until after her operation. My sister said Sam kept saying “Hungry, hungry!” all day.

Below is a the picture my sister took when she was FINALLY able to eat.

Samantha_at_SickKids_Hospital_eating

Tests and Treatment

Sammi also needs to have another MRI (she had one on her head ONLY last week) and a bunch of other tests, because the doctors are still unsure of the exact location of the mass. The tumor might be in the eye socket or in the optic nerve. What they do know, however, is that it is NOT in her brain. Her next MRI will be a full body one, and is scheduled for this Friday.

The plan, according to her doctors, is to remove her eye after the second round of chemo.

Sammi also needs to remain in Toronto for three to six months, which presents complications because someone also needs to care for Ali, Sammi’s six-year-old brother, particularly when Charlie is at work.

So far, with the help of his paternal grandpa, his maternal grandma, and his auntie (me), Ali has been okay, but he’s missing his little sister and his mom.

Charlie also goes to Toronto once a month for appointments. He is leaving later today for his next one, meaning Ali and I will be staying at my parents’ place until Charlie returns.

Sam’s first round of chemo will be given later today, too.

Sam’s a Fighter

Sam is fighter, and I’m sure she’ll be fine, in time — well, as fine as she can be.

Hopefully the chemo won’t make her too sick, and hopefully there will be no infection when she has her eye removed.

Living in Toronto for 3-6 months

My sister and Sammi will have to remain in Toronto for several months while Sam is treated.

It’s still unsure when Ali will be joining them.

Fortunately, accommodations are being made for them to stay at the Ronald McDonald house. Apparently they will be permitted to stay there for up to a year. This option is much cheaper than staying at a hotel, or even renting an apartment.

Many of the costs are covered through government funding.

However, if you want to make a donation to their family, you can. You can use the button below, and donate through either a credit card or PayPal. I’ll make sure all monies go directly to my sister.

Janice did not want me to ask for any donations for her family. Instead, she’d prefer that any donations be made to cancer research, which can be done through Sammi’s Relay for Life cancer fundraiser page. (Click the Donate to Samantha link to be brought to the donation page.)

Sam’s team is called Agony of DeFeet. At the end of this post is a picture of their team banner.

Cancer Research Works

The Canadian Cancer Society has funded Dr. Chan’s (one Sam’s former doctor’s) retinoblastoma research. Dr. Chan has discovered that Cyclosporin-A, when given with Carboplatin Vincristine and Etoposide, decreases chemo resistance in RB1 tumours. Basically this means that Sammi’s tumour has a better chance of being killed.

Dr. Chan and Dr. Gallie are the top two RB specialists in the world. Dr. Chan retired in January 2015, so Dr. Gallie is Sammi’s main doctor now, and she is, in Janice’s words, “AMAZING.” She treated Charlie, too, and goes well beyond the call of duty for her patients.

Dr. Chan’s work proves that monies allocated for cancer research are well-spent.

You can see more pictures and videos by visiting Sam on Facebook via her mom’s page.

How You Can Help Sammi

Go_for_gold_Samantha

Donate directly to Sammi and her family by clicking the button below.

Donate to Sammi’s cancer fundraising page by clicking this link. (Click the Donate to Samantha link to be brought to the donation page.)


And please say a prayer for Sam.

Thank you.

Some Old Relay for Life Pics:

Sam finished her lap!

Sam finished her lap!

Sam's team banner

Sam’s team banner

Jan and Relay Captain Candace

(At another cancer fundraiser. Notice Candace’s sweatshirt! Janice is holding a picture of Michael Antcliffe, who died of Cancer after writing his book, Hope is My Wingman.)

Jan and Candace

Some Newer Pics, of Sam and Ali

Ali

 

Ali 1

Sam tower 2014

Sam dec 2014

Sam and Ali

Help Sammi

Go_for_gold_Samantha

Donate directly to Sammi and her family by clicking the button below.

Donate to Sammi’s cancer fundraising page by clicking this link. (Click the Donate to Samantha link to be brought to the donation page.)


Baby Sam’s Battle With Cancer, and Numbness In My Hand

Baby Sam (Sammi)

Baby Sam (Sammi)

Baby Sam, my niece, has had a battle with cancer since the day she was born. Sam (Samantha) was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare form of cancer. This means she has tumors in her eyes. Sam is my sister’s baby, and is the newest addition to our family.

In the city of Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, which is where we all live, there has only been one case of this type of cancer in the last 25+ years; her father’s. Sam inherited retinoblastoma from him.

Baby Sam was only two days old when my sister took her to Toronto, to the hospital for SickKids, where she ended up spending a large portion of her life during her first few months.

Sam has tumors in both of her eyes. The doctors at this hospital are specialists, and have seen Baby Sam many times since she was born. Sam has already undergone a lot of treatment. She has had three different types, so far.

When she was under one month old, she underwent cryotherapy and laser therapy. When she was old enough, she had chemotherapy. My sister refused radiation treatments for Baby Sam, as she did not want Sam to suffer developmentally. There are pros and cons to all types of treatments, and it is often difficult to make the right decisions. I think my sister has made all the right ones, though, as Sam’s battle with cancer is, for the moment, under control. However, the cancer can grow at any time. This is scary, since we do not know when it is happening.

Sam gets treated regularly. In fact, Sam has to go to SickKids every month for check-ups and treatment until she is 6 years old. At least. These frequent trips are really tough on my sister. They are hard on Sam’s big brother, too, who is now four.  He has been to Toronto twice already, but usually stays with a family member when my sister travels with Sam. His dad works, so someone needs to babysit him! He likes to sleep over at Grandma’s house, and always brings his pillow and blanket set that are covered with Sesame Street characters, with Elmo being the largest one featured. He loves Elmo!

Sam’s treatments so far have consisted of three different kinds. Chemotherapy was hard on her, but was the most effective.  Cryotherapy and laser therapy  both have side effects, too, such as damage to the retina, which can lead to blind spots. Of course, having a few blind spots is better than losing both of her eyes! Sam’s dad only has one eye as a result of a late diagnosis of retinoblastoma. Basically, having retinoblastoma is a lose-lose situation. Our family cried for weeks when we found out Sam was afflicted with this disease.

We do not know how much vision Baby Sam has, since she is not old enough to tell us. She has one eye that is “good” and one that is “bad”, since most of the tumors in her “good” eye have been shrunk down to nothing. Her bad eye, however, has had way more treatment, and her vision in it has been affected. This we know already. Although Sam does not yet have language skills, she can still communicate. She laughs when she is happy and cries when she is not. When she was about four months old, my sister was advised to put a patch on Sam’s “good” eye to help strengthen the vision in her “bad” eye, and Sam had a fit. She hated the patch. We think that she cried so much because her vision was impaired, because she could not see. This is our theory. We won’t know to what extent Sam can see until she learns to talk. As of right now, she only says “Mum” or “MumMum”!

The good news is that we know that Sam can see a bit. We do not know how much vision she actually has, but Sam is able to recognize each member of our family, including everyone’s pets. She recognizes her toys, plays with them, and has a few favorites. Her attention is drawn to certain commercials on TV, images on the computer, and games her brother plays. She is an active, happy little girl whose face is usually filled with smiles. She is loved by all of us, and is adorable. Recently she learned to walk, indicating that she is developing at a rate comparable with “normal”, healthy children of the same age. She has also started to eat a bit of human food in addition to her baby food and bottles of formula. She is learning how to use her hands to transfer food to her mouth. In this respect she may be a bit behind in her development, but she is learning! My sister thinks she may be two months behind in her development due to being at the SickKids hospital for six weeks after she was born. Since each child develops at a different rate, it is hard to compare Sam to others her age due to the cancer she has. Sam is precious, and lovely, and a sight to behold. I refer to her as “gorgeous girl” and each time I do, I am rewarded with a wide smile!

Sam has had a few other health issues, too. She is going to Toronto again next week to get them all checked out. She has three appointments in one day: at 9:30 am, at 1:30 pm, and at 3:30 pm. My sister is very devoted to taking care of Baby Sam. I commend her for her devotion. It is not easy to travel and have to go to so many appointments within the space of just two days (they are scheduled to leave Tuesday and be back Wednesday night).

Baby Sam’s battle with cancer will be ongoing for the rest of her life. Having retinoblastoma affects her the most, but also affects the rest of the family. Her dad feels guilty for passing it on to her, and is dealing with these feelings. It affects my sister, as she is Sam’s mom and main constant, Sam’s lifeline. It affects the rest of us, too, in ways that are difficult to describe. However, we have learned in the past year that the best way to deal with it is day by day.

I could go on and on about this, but I am having my own health issues at the moment. My leg for some reason has been really sore this past week, and I am experiencing numbness in my right hand. I hope the two are not connected. I think the numbness is a result of too much time on the computer! I will be going to the doctor’s soon, I think, to get my hand checked out. I am worried. My pinkie finger has been numb for about four or five days, and now the numbness is moving to my ring finger. My whole hand feels weird.

My son, who is 23 today, has advised me to massage it, stretch it and then rest it. I would like to wish him a happy birthday and thank him for his advice. He is a private person, and does not want me talking about him, so I will stop. I just wanted to let him know, if he is reading this, that I think about him a lot. I just saw him two days ago, so I know he is well. It is hard to rest my hand when I am so addicted to my laptop! Resting it seems to be out of the question at the moment, although I am trying not to strain myself.

If anyone out there has experienced this type of numbness, I would like to know how to deal with it. Do you have any advice for me? I sure would appreciate it if you do. Just leave me a comment, please. Feel free to leave a comment about Baby Sam as well. I love comments!

If any of you have had experiences with the type of cancer Sam has, I would also like to hear from you, and maybe connect you with my sister. My sister is on Facebook, so connecting to her should not be too hard.

If anyone is reading this that has experienced numbness from using a computer mouse or from typing, I really want to hear from you. Don’t forget to comment!

Thanks for listening.

Lorraine.