16-year-old West Virginia native Lexy Blair and her parents knew that something was wrong when she started needing to take breaks during her favorite dance classes. Lexy was suffering from intense fatigue and constant headaches, and was unable to keep up with her rigorous dance training or even finish days of school, which had never posed a problem for her in the past.
At first, her parents, Rob and Mary Beth, thought this was caused by Lexy’s changing hormones or the stress of high school. The Blairs tried treating Lexy’s symptoms with different over-the-counter pain medications and tests, and saw her family doctor, but after Lexy experienced a sharp pain in her head and nearly fainted in a dance class, the family and their doctor knew it was time to take the next step.
In October 2014, after undergoing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), Lexy was referred to Children’s National by her physician. The impressive reputation of Children’s Brain Tumor Research Program was a comfort to the Blairs. Senior Vice President of the Center for Neuroscience and Behavioral Medicine, Roger Packer, M.D., looked at Lexy’s MRI results and immediately made an appointment for Lexy the following day. Before her scheduled appointment time, Dr. Packer sought out Lexy in the waiting room and introduced himself, to the surprise and delight of the family. “We were blown away. Having the personal experience of getting an appointment quickly, and then to see a doctor expecting you in the middle of an already busy clinic day, showed Children’s went above and beyond to provide us with the best care. And that was just the beginning of it,” said Mary Beth.
Dr. Packer and his team found an abnormal tumor in the frontal lobe of Lexy’s brain, and she was quickly scheduled for a functional MRI test and an electroencephalogram (EEG). By late November, one month after first coming to Children’s, Dr. Packer and neurosurgeon Suresh Magge,M.D., were preparing Lexy and her family for a complex surgery to remove the tumor.
The neurosurgery team at Children’s used an intraoperative MRI to determine whether they removed the entire tumor and limited the risk for regrowth. Throughout the surgery and the recovery process, Dr. Magge was instrumental in comforting Lexy and explaining her care to her. “He is absolutely amazing. He speaks so confidently and calmly—Lexy had such a peace because of the way he interacted with her. He was amazing from the very first day,” said Mary Beth.
During Lexy’s surgery, Dr. Magge reassured the Blairs, clearly explaining every stage of her surgery. “He stands out as a hero in our minds for the way he handled Lexy and the way he removed her tumor. I have complete faith and trust in him,” said Mary Beth. The nursing and surgical teams, imaging techs, and anesthesiologists all kept Lexy calm as they walked her through the procedure.
During their journey at Children’s, Mary Beth kept a binder of all documents related to Lexy’s care to manage all the information. She prepared for each visit, arriving with questions for the physicians, taking notes, and bringing the entire family for support. Being prepared and surrounded by loved ones, she said, gave her peace of mind during Lexy’s treatment.
Just eighteen months after her surgery, Lexy has zero tumor regrowth and is almost completely recovered. She returned to dancing and school full-time and comes to Children’s every three months for an MRI. She was named Dancer of the Year at her studio and is back on the Honor Roll at her high school. “Lexy has an incredible faith and confidence in life. She never complains. She was the strongest of all of us,” said her mother.
With the permission of Lexy and her family, neuro-oncologist Eugene Hwang, M.D., at the Brain Tumor Institute used Lexy’s DNA to study grade II diffuse astrocytomas, which is the type of tumor she had. “She just wants to be able use her experience to help other people and to bring peace and joy to others,” Mary Beth said. For the Blairs, the treatment, expertise and resources from our dedicated team, left an impact on Lexy and her family, giving her the strength to keep dancing no matter what.