In January 2007, six-year-old Emily Barger's parents were trying to find a reason for their daughter's stomach pains and fever. Days turned into weeks, and Emily was still feeling very ill.
After many trips to her pediatrician's office and no firm diagnosis, Emily's parents, Brian and Misty, brought her to Children's Hospital for additional help. Emily was diagnosed in the Emergency Department as having a bad case of constipation. But less than 24 hours later, Emily was back in the Children's Hospital Emergency Department, where it was discovered that the root of her stomach pain was something much more serious.
"We went from constipation to cancer in less than 24 hours," said Emily's dad, Brian.
CT scans detected a large tumor on one of Emily's kidneys. At first, Emily's oncologist thought that she had a Wilms tumor, a type of cancer that involves the kidneys. Later tests revealed that Emily actually had Rhabdomyosarcoma, a very rare cancer that only affects about 250 children in the United States each year. This soft tissue cancer generally arises in the muscles, so Emily's specific diagnosis was extremely rare.
A few days after her diagnosis, Emily had the kidney and part of her spleen removed during surgery at Children's Hospital. She spent several days in the PICU (Pediatric Intensive Care Unit) at Children's Hospital after her surgery. Testing later showed that Emily's cancer had not moved into her bone marrow, and her scans looked to be clear in other areas, too. Emily began her regimen of 40 chemotherapy treatments. She completed her radiation treatment in July 2007 as an outpatient in the Hematology/Oncology Clinic. Children's Hospital's Home Health Department monitors her port-a-cath (a surgically implanted central line that delivers medications into a vein) for maintenance and cleanings.
Emily often has to be hospitalized for some of her treatment and has won the hearts of the staff at Children's Hospital, especially on the Second Floor (where Hematology/Oncology patients are hospitalized).
Emily is scheduled to complete her chemotherapy by the end of 2007. She will then begin maintenance therapy and will continue testing to ensure her cancer does not return.