Wednesday, December 22, 2021 / by Claudia Pecoits
Doctors suspected Ava's headaches were due to a family history of migraines when she was five years old. When his daughter Ava was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a kind of brain cancer, Rob believes St. Jude helped him get her the care she needed.
I'm looking forward to spending more time with family, being present, and creating memories as the Christmas season approaches. Being under the same roof and sharing a simple meal with my wife and children on a special day or a weekday has never meant as much as it did this past year.
My then 5-year-old daughter, Ava, started getting headaches a little over a year ago. We observed she wasn't walking very well after that. We saw a pediatric neurologist, who assured us that it was nothing serious. Because my wife had a history of migraines, the physicians assumed it was connected.
It was distressing to learn in September that Ava had medulloblastoma, a kind of brain cancer that had spread to her spine.
I was focused on my business, producing money, and providing for my family before Ava's diagnosis. That was a major source of concern for me. That is something I no longer do. My world was turned upside down when physicians informed my wife and me that our daughter had cancer. My attention diverted. Priorities shift throughout time.
We needed to locate Ava the greatest possible care. She had surgery at a local hospital for the original tumor, but after doing some research, we decided that the rest of her treatment would take place at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, where there was a team of professionals who understood how to treat this form of cancer.
When we arrived at St. Jude, we were immediately overwhelmed. But at the same time, we were met with kindness, especially by the doctors and nurses, who were outstanding. I’ve never seen such professionalism, and care, people that really care about their job. It’s a calling at St. Jude. They don’t do the work just for the money; they do it because they really believe in helping the kids.
At St. Jude, Ava underwent a second brain surgery, followed by several months of proton therapy and chemotherapy. The days were long. Besides treatment, she had multiple therapies, scans, and lab visits, but my little girl was a champ.
Ava has always been feisty, but this cancer fight highlighted my daughter’s resiliency, perseverance, and toughness. A scrappiness I didn’t know she had. I’m so proud of her for that — she’s been a rock star.
While we worried about our daughter’s health, we didn’t have to worry about the cost of treatment, thanks to St. Jude. While Ava was being treated at the hospital, I didn’t have to decide on treatment based off of what we could afford. I just made decisions based on what was best for my daughter. It’s such a blessing that this place exists. Without that, it would have been much more stressful.
Ava is in remission now, and we have returned home. There's a new normal. Ava attends her therapies and I go to work. I love weekend mornings when we have slow starts, and where we just spend time around the pool and with each other.
As a father you want to provide, and I’m still going to do that, but my number one priority has changed. Now it’s about having my family together, healthy and happy.
I’m happy if everybody is in the same room, enjoying a meal, feeling good — not under duress, not in pain.
That’s my number one priority now.
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