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Reagan's Journey

A young girl's battle with childhood cancer

December 01, 2011
Tami Dillman wondered why her 5-year-old daughter, Reagan, became so agitated and anxious that she wouldn't enter the movie theater. Reagan's anxiety attack was followed by intermittent headaches that persisted for three weeks. At that point, Tami, a nurse at St.Vincent Williamsport Hospital, asked a hospital physician to examine Reagan more closely.

News you hope never to receive

An MRI revealed a tangerine-size tumor on Reagan's brain. Reagan was referred to Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent, where she met pediatric neurosurgeon Ronald Young, M.D. Treatment soon followed. Dr. Young removed Reagan's tumor, which, thankfully was dense and compact and hadn't spread. More good news came within 24 hours as a follow-up MRI revealed the tumor area was clear.

The long road ahead

Although the initial news was positive, the Dillmans' journey had really only just begun: Lab results revealed cancer--a medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor in children. "Medulloblastomas are located in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and other complex motor functions," said pediatric oncologist Jessica Goodman, M.D.

Medulloblastomas occur most commonly in children between the ages of 3 and 8 years, with approximately 500 cases diagnosed each year in the United States. With six weeks of radiation and 55 weeks of chemotherapy, Reagan, her twin sister, Rylie, and her mom were at the hospital practically every day.

Home away from home

"Reagan received treatments for a year and a half," said Tami. "But everyone at the hospital was so accommodating and caring that the girls actually looked forward to the trips to the hospital. The caregivers became my friends and support network as they genuinely cared not just for Reagan but for all of us."

Two of the Dillmans' biggest supporters were Child Life specialists Angie Shepler and Molly McCloud. "They are truly two of the most wonderful women in the whole world," Tami said. "They played games with the girls, painted their nails, did crafts and whatever else they could dream up to help pass the time and take their minds off the treatment."

The Child Life specialists made such an impression on Reagan that she's decided that's what she wants to be when she grows up.

To hear more about Reagan's journey, visit PeytonsHeroes.com/Reagan.

Time for celebration

When Reagan's treatment was finally completed, she and her sister marked the date in style, celebrating with feather boas, big hats, sunglasses, popcorn, cake and goodies. Reagan's treatment was over, and she was in remission.

The girls, now 8, are back to their regular activities, and the whole family is just focused on taking life one day at a time. "I thank everyone at Peyton Manning Children's Hospital at St.Vincent for their continued care and support," said Tami. "They saved Reagan's life, and we are forever grateful."

To hear more about Reagan's story, visit PeytonsHeroes.com/Reagan.

Tags: Health, Local

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