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Aine is an artistic girl who loves sloths, llamas, Harry Potter, painting and building LEGO sets. Although she is shy, her family admires her for her big heart.
At the start of seventh grade, a small lump appeared on Aine’s right forearm. The doctor thought it could be muscle-related, as Aine had joined the cheer squad at school. He told Aine to ice it and call if it wasn’t better in a week. Unfortunately, it only grew and began to cause Aine pain. Aine was then looked at by several doctors, received an X-ray and an ultrasound, but still came up empty. The tumor wasn’t found until she had an MRI.
Aine was referred to an orthopedic oncologist to look at her arm. By the time Aine arrived, her fingers were going numb and the mass was even larger. After a biopsy and chest CT scan, doctors confirmed Aine had a form of sarcoma. The sarcoma specialist doctors suggested Aine see was at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, five hours away from Aine’s home.
Everything from there felt like it all happened at once. Aine was officially diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma, received PET and CAT scans, X-rays and MRIs, kidney and heart tests. She had a port placed and an ovary removed to preserve her fertility. They found a concerning spot on her lung and performed a biopsy. She also underwent bone marrow and lymph node biopsies. Thankfully, all the cancer was localized to her arm, which meant she could start her 14 rounds of chemotherapy.
Unfortunately, Aine and her family would have to make the five-hour drive for each round. It was difficult to find places to stay that were affordable, especially with Aine’s mother quitting her job to take care of her. Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s (ALSF) Travel For Care program was able to help Aine’s family with the travel expenses, providing gas cards and hotel stays, so she could get to her treatment with no additional worries.
The goal was to do a three-day stay every two weeks with a six-day stay in between and have surgery halfway through treatment. But things didn’t go as planned. Round two involved a trip to the emergency room, where Aine’s local hospital flew her to Cincinnati. Aine endured typhlitis and clostridium difficile colitis, and chemotherapy was pushed back until she could recover. Between each cycle Aine spiked a fever and had to be hospitalized for a week – with neutropenia, mucositis, intestinal fissures, E. coli poisoning and constant nerve pain. Aine was rarely home more than two days in a row at any time, and was unable to eat and drink. She missed every holiday and special occasion over the next year.
Despite the difficulties, the mass was shrinking. Aine eventually had her surgery, and she was cancer-free.
Treatment left Aine in bad shape, weak and unable to use her right arm. Rehabilitation helped her regain her strength to go home, and behavioral therapy helped with her depression. Recovery was a long and hard road, but today Aine is 16 years old, independent and using her right arm again. The excitement that came when Aine was finally able to do something again – lift her arm, hold a glass, tie her shoes – were such a big deal. Her mom, Kelly Ann, thinks it’s amazing seeing how far Aine has come. You could look at her and never know what she went through.
Aine’s strength makes her a hero. When she lost the use of her right arm, she learned to use her left. She is back in school and wants to pursue a job in the medical field. She has high hopes for the future and never lets the fear of cancer returning stop her from doing anything.
Today, Aine has follow-up tests every three months. While waiting for her results is nerve-wracking, Aine has remained in remission thus far.
“There’s no real good way to prepare for this journey, but support systems will always be your greatest strength,” Kelly Ann shares with others who may be facing a childhood cancer diagnosis. “We could not have survived this without having others be there for us. It’s a constant emotional, physical and financial battle. But when others step up and help so that you can focus on simply being there for your child, it means everything.”
Aine and her family are grateful for the support and peace of mind ALSF has brought them. In a crazy, scary mess of chaos, it meant they had at least one thing they could count on. They donate and raise money for the cause whenever they can and hope to do more in the future when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Hero quote: “I did it!!!” - Aine
Information provided by Kelly Ann Thompson, Aine’s mom
Updated March 2021
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