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Willow Raczniak

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Willow Vale had always been such a healthy and smiley little baby from the day she was born in April 2023. But on July 23, she started acting unlike herself. 

Uncomfortable and grumpy all day and night, Willow had become more tired than a normal 3-month-old. When she would look at someone, she wouldn’t register who they were. Before, Willow could drink a full four-ounce bottle of formula with no issues, but suddenly she couldn’t finish more than one-to-three ounces without throwing up. At this point, Willow was projectile vomiting after almost every feed. Her parents called the pediatrician who suggested they take Willow to the hospital.  

At the ER, Willow had an ultrasound of her abdomen and brain done. While her abdomen looked normal, the ultrasound technician noticed something in her brain. Willow was then wheeled off for a CAT scan looking tremendously little in a large hospital bed. After getting a second opinion from another hospital, the ER determined that Willow had a mass in her head. 

On July 30 at 2:30 am, Willow was rushed to the other hospital for their neurologists to take a look. A quick MRI that same day revealed fluid that was causing her head to swell. Monday morning saw Willow in surgery to drain the fluid. Neurosurgeons drained 30mL (.5 ounces) from her head. When she returned to her room in the PICU she seemed groggy but was back to her happy and smiling little self in two hours, as if she didn’t have a tumor the size of a golf ball in her brain. 

After her surgery Willow underwent an hour-long MRI. It showed where Willow’s tumor was located: right behind her eye nerves, and that there were four main blood vessels going through it like a pipe. Doctors also found small tumors along her spine. Her plan from there was to begin chemotherapy treatment and undergo a second surgery to extract two sample pieces of her tumor. The first piece was being further studied by pathology, while the second piece was frozen, giving doctors an immediate 70% guess on what type of cancer Willow had. 

Willow was diagnosed with glioblastoma. The tumor was inoperable because of its location and how many vital arteries were surrounding it. Sadly, Willow passed away on Valentine’s Day 2024 at 10 months old. 

Willow is a hero to her family for so many reasons. In her short life she was so loved, prayed for and thought of by so many people, including strangers. Even though Willow didn't understand what was going on and went through many operations, surgeries, needle pricks, chemo and sickness daily, she still smiled and babbled. She was and is the light of so many lives and was truly a warrior. She was one tough little baby girl. Her family will continue to honor her and others by raising funds and awareness through Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. 

Information provided by Amy A., Willow’s great aunt 
Updated April 2024 

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