In the Month of December, 2012, Abigail Schemmer experienced what many people were experiencing during flu season, which was a persistent headache, nausea with vomiting. After trying numerous over the counter medications, she went to her pediatrician, where she was diagnosed with a sinus infection, and placed on antibiotic therapy. She continued to struggle with keeping the antibiotics down, so she paid a visit to the emergency department in hopes of receiving a medication to help with the vomiting, but also to make sure she was not getting too dehydrated. The assumption from the ER was that she had a virus, and that it would pass. Abbey had a follow up appointment with her Pediatrician and after learning that she continued to be very sick; he asked her, "If I could do one thing for you, what would it be"? And her response was, "take away my headache". This is where her story begins, and our lives were forever changed. On January 4, for diagnostic purposes, Abbey had a CT scan of her brain, and lab work. No sooner were these completed that she was called back into radiology to have an MRI of her brain. After the test was complete Pam, Abbey and I were told to report to her Pediatricians office, where he said those words no parent wants to here "your daughter has a brain tumor." The office assisted us in finding a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's County (CHOC), and scheduled an appointment for us. Abbey was placed on a steroid to decrease the swelling in her brain, which eliminated the headaches and nausea.
The following Monday we had an appointment with the pediatric neurosurgeon, who gave more details regarding his thoughts about the tumor, and informed us that there was a second mass that he could not identify, but it would also need to be taken out at a later date to learn if it was metastasis from the primary tumor. Abbey was admitted that afternoon into the intensive Care unit, and scheduled for a craniotomy the next morning.
On Tuesday, January 8th, Abbey had her first surgery to remove the large tumor from her frontal lobe. She did well through the surgery, and her doctor was confident that he was able to remove the entire tumor. After only 3 days in the hospital, she was ready to go home. Of course it was the day of her team's basketball game, so she asked her doctor permission to attend the game, to support her team. What do you do as parents when the doctor tells her yes, you take her to the game and pray a ball does not hit her in the head?
Abbey's tumor was sent to the Mayo Clinic, UCSF, and finally to Johns Hopkins. The pathology report revealed that is was a Glioblastoma Multiforme, and it was a Grade IV. This was the worse news we could have possible received, and of course of all the tumors and cancers out there for her to have, this is the one we prayed it would not be, it is extremely aggressive and just as difficult to treat. So here we were faced with this horrible truth, and all we could do was move forward.
After a full week at home to recover, Abbey was readmitted to undergo a second brain surgery. This time instead of a tumor, they found an AV malformation, which they were able to excise. We were very thankful that it was not the same cancer spreading to another area. Her recovery was not as uneventful as the first, because she endured more pain, and swelling due to the location. We then met with the full oncology team and at this time learned that Abbey had a second cancer called PNET that is in the lining of her brain tissue and in her spinal column, and just like the Glioblastoma, it is extremely aggressive and difficult to treat.
Because of the nature of both cancers time was of the essence, so there was not much recovery time provided, before treatments began. The Oncology Team set up an extremely aggressive treatment plan, painting a somewhat grim picture of what we should expect during this time, and then we started chemotherapy and radiation, praying daily, for her body to be able to endure this treatment regime. Abbey completed 42 consecutive days of chemotherapy, and 33 treatments of radiation to the brain, and 21 treatments to the spinal column.
Abbey had asked her doctors on more than one occasion when she could go back to school. They appeased her by telling her once her treatments were completed they would then see how she felt, and if she still wanted to go back they would consider it. What they did not know is that God has taken a special interest in his child, and he has filled her with strength and resilience. So what was suppose to be a very weak child, who could barely get out of bed to receive her treatments, was a little girl who at the end of her therapy participated in the 8th grade girls basketball game against their fathers. She was able to keep up with the team, as well as score a few points. We thank God for all the strength and energy he has given her through this fight with cancer.
Abbey has started back to school, and is back to working in the kitchen and the snack shack after school. She has a scheduled 6 week break before she will get admitted to CHOC and start an intense regimen of system chemotherapy. During her break from chemo she will participate in her 8th grade trip to . This and graduating with her class has been what has motivated her to get well. She is so looking forward to this time with her friends and teachers.
As for the future, she will be hospitalized after her trip to start her systemic chemotherapy. She will have an MRI first to see if the frontal tumor has started to grow back, if there are any other tumors developing, and where the PNET has spread to. This treatment will be very difficult for her, causing her to feel weak, sick, and without appetite. Our biggest concerns are that the Oncologist has not determined the type of treatment. He has shared that he is reading articles, and trying to determine what combinations of treatment will have the best success in treating both of these cancers, but at this time, he has not been able to do so. We do not want to live in the fear of what if, but in the hope, that there is a plan for her life, and God is in the center of that plan.
To follow how Abbey Schemmer is doing with her fight with cancer, please follow us on : http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/abbeyschemmer or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/ken.schemmerii.
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