By John, a Children's National hospital parent
It’s hard to look at your 16-year-old daughter and wonder if there will be a high school graduation for her — or an opportunity to attend college. Catherine’s lymphoma challenged everyone in our family, especially her.
We got through it because her team at Children’s National Hospital, led by oncologists Drs. Shana Jacobs and Reuven Schore, committed themselves to returning her to a healthy life.
Complications created constant ups and downs. Her disease progressed even after three chemo protocols and her doctors began immunotherapy. It was so experimental at the time it was only available as a clinical trial for children. She was the first patient at Children’s National to enroll in the trial and start on this medication. Another patient tried it because Catherine had done so well.
Once, after a bone marrow transplant, she ended up in the ICU with very abnormal vital signs. Treatments for the two possible causes of what was wrong were the opposite of each other. Dr. Evelio Perez-Albuerne, a blood and marrow transplant specialist, arrived and took command of the situation on his day off. By 11 p.m. Catherine began to recover.
When Catherine’s team said they were going to be partners in care, they meant it. They spent countless hours, often after disappointing test results, in conversation with us. They searched for creative solutions. Catherine is now 22 and excelling in college. I feel like she made history with her treatment and her outcome. If there is a silver lining to her lymphoma story, it’s that she opened a door that might one day help save another child’s life.