Callie’s mom, Michelle, remembers Friday, Dec. 4, 2015, distinctly: they were all getting ready for Callie’s birthday party and had just finished grocery shopping for last-minute party supplies. Michelle noticed that Callie hadn’t been acting like herself for the past couple weeks — she was tired and had been complaining of leg pain at night.
Hoping they were just growing pains, Michelle tried not to assume the worst — a challenge since she was a family physician. “My medical background told me that night pain I couldn’t reproduce by examining her leg was a big 'red flag', as we call it in our business,” she says. “I gave her ibuprofen and gave it two weeks.”
That night, Callie asked her mom to help her shower because she felt so fatigued. When Michelle went to help her, the tumor caught her eye, Callie’s lower abdomen was protruding.
“I prayed to God it was a hernia,” Michelle says. “I tried not to alarm her by keeping the tone in my voice calm, but my heart was pounding and my knees were so weak I was afraid I may fall over from fear.”
Michelle felt the area on Callie’s abdomen. Immediately, she knew that the hard mass was her worst nightmare. She yelled for her husband and they took Callie to the emergency room.
Shortly thereafter, Callie was diagnosed with pelvic rhabdomyosarcoma, a cancer that usually begins in the muscles that are attached to the bones. Rhabdomyosarcoma is the most common type of soft tissue sarcoma in children.
Since her diagnosis, Callie has endured several rounds of chemotherapy, surgery to remove the original tumor and six weeks of radiation. After her treatment wrapped up, her family hoped the cancer was gone forever, but just days before her three-month scans this past December, several tumors were found throughout her abdomen.
Today, Callie is undergoing more chemotherapy and there has been more tumor shrinkage, but she will need a radical, invasive surgery to remove the new tumors. Essentially, doctors will have to cut her abdomen and take out the tumors one-by-one.
Despite the suffering her family has been through, her family believes it’s their duty to share her story so no other kids will have to go through what Callie has been through.