GEISMAR, LA (WAFB) - Information provided by APSB Public Information Office
A 10-year-old girl, Jillian Vickers, recently emerged victorious from an eight month battle with cancer.
Jillian is a fourth grader at Spanish Lake Primary in Geismar. On April 28, 2016, she was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma disease in her right femur. Her symptoms began as pain in her leg, and after a week of saying, "my leg hurts, my leg hurts," Jillian's mother made an appointment with their nurse practitioner.
The nurse practitioner ordered x-rays for Jillian's knee, hip, and a scoliosis series. The scans came back normal, but Jillian's pain continued. Jillian was referred to an orthopedic surgeon, who suggested custom orthotics for Jillian's shoes. However, when the inserts came in, they did very little to help Jillian's pain. That same weekend, Jillian's grandmother noticed a large bump on Jillian's leg that grew very quickly and was even visible through Jillian's clothing.
Jillian was taken to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital and had many tests performed that day. Her family consulted with many specialists, who then consulted with St. Jude Children's Hospital. Although they did not have a definitive diagnosis, it was suspected she had Ewing's or another type of bone cancer. Jillian was accepted to St. Jude and four days later, she and her family were on a plane to Memphis, Tennessee.
"It's not what you see; it is a different reality," said Jillian's mother, Ashlee Albarado. "From the very beginning everything fell into place and all the pieces aligned."
Luckily, they caught the cancer early. Aside from the primary tumor site, Jillian had a small nodule in her right lung, which a surgeon was able to remove. The biopsy tested positive for Ewing's. Albarado says Ewing's is a very aggressive cancer and they were lucky Jillian only had one small nodule.
Jillian was then given 14 cycles of chemotherapy every other week, receiving the chemo one week and recovering the next. She was also given Neupogen injections to boost her immune system and white blood cell count. She received an injection once a day for 7-10 days depending on which cycle of chemo she had been administered. After six weeks at St. Jude, Jillian and her family returned to Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge.
On August 15, 2016, Jillian underwent a surgery called Limb Sparring Surgery. Doctors planned to remove the tumor in her leg, but it was so high up in her leg that she had to have a partial hip replacement in order to avoid amputation. During the surgery, it was discovered that an astonishing 99 percent of her tumor had already died, well above the 80 percent reduction they'd hoped for.
Jillian then completed eight more cycles of chemotherapy and returned to Memphis for her last set of scans, which came back cancer free.
Albarado says getting back to normal has been challenging because "they will forever be waiting for the other shoe to drop." She believes they went through the experience for a reason, saying, "Jillian's story was written a long time ago, and it was not for her to question."
During her treatment, Jillian continued to attend school at Spanish Lake Primary. Her doctors approved of it as long as her white blood cell count was up and she wasn't in the middle of a cycle of chemo. Jillian says she missed her friends most of all.
Although she is cancer free, Jillian must return to the hospital for routine scans over the next ten years to ensure the cancer does not return.
Jillian and her family were so overwhelmed by the generosity and support they receive during Jillian's treatment that they started an event they hope to hold annually called Jillian's Fall Jamboree. The event is to raise money for another local family battling cancer.
For more information about Ewing's Sarcoma, click here.