Neuroblastoma: Ellie’s Story

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Five-year-old Ellie has a big personality. “Bubbly, sassy, silly, determined, very loving and caring” is how her mother, Candice, describes her. In summer 2019, Ellie experienced stomach pains and vomiting that doctors thought could just be constipation. Her parents, Candice and Christopher, didn’t feel right about that explanation. Having had first-hand experience with the high level of care at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), the family turned to CHOP. 

Ellie smiling outside “When you know something isn’t right with your child, you want the best of the best, and I knew CHOP would take care of our girl,” explains Candice. CHOP was there for Ellie right from the start. After she was born at a local hospital, she was in their NICU, but the physicians there weren’t sure what was wrong with her. So the family decided to have her moved to CHOP’s NICU, where she was diagnosed with Turner syndrome, a chromosomal disorder in girls that is associated with varying physical characteristics and health problems, including short stature and heart disease. “Because she was a CHOP NICU baby,” says Candice, “I knew she would be in great hands.”

A tumor on her adrenal gland

The cause of Ellie’s stomach pain was devastating: CHOP pediatric oncologists discovered a tumor on Ellie’s left adrenal gland, the small glands on top of the kidneys. She was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer that starts in very early forms of nerve cells. Ellie underwent multiple forms of treatment. Through it all, the CHOP staff provided excellent care and supported the entire family.

“Ellie has high-risk neuroblastoma and has undergone intense chemotherapy, surgery and transplant,” says Vandana Batra, MD, Ellie’s primary oncologist. “She has an amazing family who were fierce advocates for her and supported her through the entire journey and met every challenge with renewed determination. Ellie is doing great and is in remission, and we hope this feisty firebrand continues to do well.”

The challenges Ellie has faced haven’t held her back. Now done with treatment, she’s looking forward to starting kindergarten in the fall. She’s been featured on the local TV news. She and her 3-year-old sister, Nora, are the best of friends and do everything together. She adores her 16-year-old brother, Lucas, and is always watching his every move. “She loves dancing, music and causing trouble,” Candice says with a laugh.

Her parents see a bright future ahead: “My hopes for Ellie are that she can grow up and chase her dreams,” says Candice. “I hope she can become whatever her heart desires, and I pray she changes the world one day.”

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