Jessica's Story: Parent's Letter Project
Osteosarcoma- Jessica’s mom
In 1988 my almost 15-year-old daughter was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her shoulder. I was in a state of shock for about two weeks, then cried nonstop for a while. But along the way of Jessica's ups and downs and ups, we learned a few life lessons that helped our family survive:
- Continue to derive the joys of life, as best you can, during the treatment. This includes trips--if possible through Make a Wish-- movies, going shopping, eating out, doing things with friends and family.
- Live as if everything is going to turn out okay, especially with a teenager. When Jessica had a recurrence, we continued college shopping and sent out college applications. And, miracle of miracles, when it was time for college, Jessica was healthy and ready to go to her first choice school. In the meantime, the college search helped us all remain upbeat.
- Be aggressive as parents to pursue the best treatment for your child, even if it means accessing clinical trials outside of Children's National on your own. We sought a second opinion at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, secured granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GMCSF) to bolster her white count while the drug was still in clinical trials, and traveled to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for a clinical trial in immunotherapy (MTP-PE) when Jessica could no longer tolerate the standard chemotherapy. We are convinced that the drugs used in the clinical trials are partially responsible for Jessica's sustained good health.
- Lean on other parents at the hospital and other parents whose children survived cancer. Ironically, my daughter's high school principal had a son who had received treatment for osteosarcoma, and his wife was a regular source of strength to me. In addition, the director of my daughter's special high school program had a daughter who had survived leukemia. She also provided constant support.
- Count on friends and members of your extended family to provide emotional and physical support. It helps them feel as if they are doing something, when in fact, they are doing something very, very important.
- Even if the odds for survival are against your child, assume that your child will be one of the children in the survival group! It helps you get through each crisis.
- Seek spiritual support. My belief in G-d was tested, but I knew that I couldn't get through this period without believing G-d existed and would support us emotionally.
- Encourage your child to be upbeat and assertive! Jessica wrote her college application essays about how she met the challenges of treatment and ensured that she still had room for fun in her life.
Now Jessica has been cancer free since treatment ended in 1991, just before her high school graduation. She is 37 years old, married, and the mother of two healthy children--both conceived without fertility treatment! Miracles do happen! I thank G-d, the doctors and nurses at Children's National, and the special clinical trials for helping make this miracle happen.
Jessica's mom, Carol