What is it like to watch your child grow up all the while knowing she will one day need a life-saving treatment? That was the situation 13-year-old Cameron and her family faced for years. Diagnosed with Fanconi anemia (FA) at just 10-days-old, Cameron and her family spent volumes of time researching the disease, investigating treatment options and ultimately, preparing for the day that Cameron would finally need a bone marrow transplant to save her life.
Fanconi anemia is a genetic blood disorder that results in bone marrow failure and an extremely high risk for leukemia. Without treatment, FA is fatal. However, if diagnosed at an early stage, patients can be closely monitored and treated appropriately when initial stages of bone marrow failure are noticed. The only proven cure for FA is a blood or marrow transplant.
Treatment at a world-leading institution
Although treatment could have been done many places, this family learned that the experts in the treatment of Fanconi anemia are located at the University of Minnesota Cancer Center. In fact, the Fanconi Anemia Comprehensive Care Program at the University of Minnesota is the single largest treatment center for FA in the United States and follows the largest number of Fanconi anemia patients in the world.
Upon arrival at the University of Minnesota, there was not much new information the doctors could tell Cameron’s family except Cameron’s blood work had begun changing and it was time to act. As Cameron waited nervously in her hospital room decked out in all things pink (her favorite color), the umbilical cord blood that had been saved from her younger brother’s birth seeped into her body and such began the second chapter of her life journey.
She progressed through the entire treatment with barely a hitch. In fact, only six days after her cord blood transplant, her mother caught Cameron dancing on her hospital bed to the latest Hannah Montana chart-topper. As her mom said, “Through the entire process, Cameron never lost her spunk nor her feistiness!”
New friends and new beginnings
Cameron made many new friends during her stay in Minnesota, including Nance Alexander, a Children’s Cancer Research Fund Care Partner’s volunteer. Just two short months after her transplant, Nance arranged a special trip for Cameron to one of her favorite places in Minnesota, the Mall of America. Through the generosity of Nordstrom’s, Cameron was able to visit the Mall of America store an hour before it opened and armed with her very own personal shopper, pick out a perfect pink “going home” outfit—a fabulous ending to their stay in Minnesota.
One week later, Cameron boarded a plane and arrived safely to her Memphis neighborhood lined with balloon-tied mailboxes and a giant welcome home banner hanging over the front door of her house. With an incredible attitude and unending support from family and friends, Cameron celebrated Christmas at home with her loving family. She is now back to school full time and thriving in the normalcy of her childhood.
Cameron was one of the lucky children who had very few complications as a result of her treatment. Unfortunately, many bone marrow transplant patients face side-effects, occasionally severe. Children’s Cancer Research Fund is currently supporting research focused on improving outcomes of blood and marrow transplants, including reducing the risk of graft-versus-host disease, one of the dangerous side-effects of this procedure.