In 2009, Mila was just four months old when her parents noticed a small lump on her right shoulder. Within four weeks, the lump had grown to the size of an egg. The malignant tumor was surgically removed, but their journey wasn’t over. Mila’s pathology results indicated that her tumor cells were missing part of chromosome 22, known to cause a rhabdoid tumor – a rare form of children’s cancer with only 15 cases diagnosed each year in the U.S. – and she began chemotherapy to eradicate the disease. She underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy and finished her treatment right before her first birthday.
Fortunately, Mila was under the care of Dr. Jeffrey Dome, chief oncologist at Children's National and a research specialist in pediatric solid tumors of the kidney. Dr. Dome was also chair of the Children’s Oncology Group study for rhabdoid tumor, an international study that 200 children’s hospitals participate in. “We were lucky to have a facility like Children’s National nearby, as well as an oncologist on staff there who happens to be one of the national experts on Mila’s type of cancer,” said Erica, Mila’s mother. “Lucky isn’t even a big enough word to describe it.”
In January 2015, Mila celebrated being cancer-free for five yearser body. Today, Mila breakdances, plays soccer, torments her cat Tigger, and studies French and Russian. She and her big sister, Fiona, are each other’s best friends -- "most of the time," her mother says.
In the months Erica and her family spent in the cancer unit at Children’s National, she realized how far some families were traveling and how long treatments kept families and children away from their homes. She wanted to help, so this year she organized a book donation and collected $2,250 worth of books for Children’s National, half of which was matched by Usborne Books & More, a New Jersey bookstore.
“Looking at Mila, you’d never even know she lived through cancer thanks to all of the amazing people at Children’s on her treatment process,” said Erica. “She reminds us all every day that there is hope.”