Andi's story: Fighting childhood kidney cancer with grit, determination and pearls.
Little Andi is known for her signature pink and pearls – but her grit and determination have been the hallmark of her past year. Andi was diagnosed with a Wilms tumor on April 29, 2019, the beginning of her strenuous but successful battle with kidney cancer.
Just two days after receiving her frightening diagnosis, Andi was in the operating room. Dr. Laura Boomer performed the 4-hour surgery, which included putting in a port for Andi’s subsequent chemotherapy, as well as removing her tumor and left kidney. It was a delicate process to prevent rupture of the tumor and take out lymph nodes, which determined how many medicines she would need and whether or not radiation would be required moving forward.
Bravely fighting kidney cancer, sweetly making friends
Thankfully, with the successful surgery and favorable pathology report, the radiation was not needed. Andi did, however, receive 24 rounds of chemotherapy, during which she proved just how strong her little body was.
“One of the great parts about doing big surgeries on small kids is how resilient they are! Andi left the hospital only four days after her operation,” said Dr. Boomer. “She was so patient and brave. It certainly can be scary to have such a big surgery and then all the things that come with chemotherapy. Andi will always hold a special place in my life and I am so grateful I had the opportunity to help her.”
For the next several months, Andi’s family made the hour-plus drive from Farmville to Richmond for her weekly chemo infusions. She made quite an impression on all of the nurses with her sweet demeanor and became fast friends with Nurse Kathy.
“I love how she would run down the hall to hug me and talk to me about church. I would access her port and she would cry for a minute and then recover so quickly and go back to talking to me,” said Kathy. “I’m glad I took care of her before COVID because I’m not sure I could see her and not hug her.”
In addition to chemo, Andi had regular appointments with her oncologist and follow-ups with Dr. Boomer. Each time, Dr. Boomer would try to find one of the few pieces of pink in her wardrobe to wear for her pink-loving patient. Determining that Dr. Boomer didn’t quite have enough, Andi and her mom had a hot pink scrub jacket embroidered with her name on it.
Tiaras and scrubs – Two of Andi’s favorite things
Andi developed quite an admiration for Dr. Boomer – so much so that she decided to dress as her for Halloween.
“Her mother had told me that she wanted to be a doctor for Halloween. I was actually traveling back from a meeting when I received a picture of her in her Halloween costume, including a name badge that said Dr. Boomer! It brought me so much joy, but also brought me to tears, that I could have that positive an impact on a child,” said Dr. Boomer. “When I saw her a week or so later for removal of her port (signaling the end of her treatment!), she was so excited to tell me about how she dressed as me and got SO MUCH CANDY.”
Andi had another opportunity to get dressed up – this time in a beautiful dress and tiara – to meet Miss America, Camille Schrier, when she came to visit the Children’s Pavilion. When Camille, a VCU pharmacy student, came back to her old stomping grounds, it was obvious that Andi HAD TO be invited. The two chatted about their future careers in medicine and, of course, compared crowns.
Enjoying a summer of fun
Today, Andi’s immune system is back in action and she’s growing taller every day. Now that she’s cancer free, she comes in every three months for echocardiograms, CT scans, lab work and ultrasounds to make sure she’s continuing to maintain her health…and to stop in to see her nurse friends in clinic. She’s been keeping busy this summer spending time outside gardening and visiting new beaches with her mom and dad. She’s also been watching movies (her favorites are Frozen I and II and anything animal-related), reading books (most recently a chapter book about mermaids), going to dance class and having socially-distanced play dates.
“Miss Andi is the strongest and bravest little warrior princess we know. Her compassion for others and ability to always see the good in things makes us prouder each and every day. In the future we hope to see her thrive and become whatever it is that makes her the happiest. She deserves it,” said Andi’s mom, Jessi.
Mom, dad and Andi are getting ready to begin a new adventure – Andi’s starting kindergarten next month! In the meantime, they’ll enjoy every last drop of summer sweetness, sleeping in, eating brunch and watching Ambush Makeovers together on the Today Show.
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