"There was a ball growing in my belly. They took it out. Now I am stronger and braver."
Skylar was just one year old when she came down with the first of several recurring fevers. Multiple blood tests over six weeks showed high platelet counts and infection but no cause. That's until her mom, Pamela, felt a golf ball-sized lump under Skylar's sternum. An imaging exam showed Skylar had hepatoblastoma — cancer of the liver.
“We were very frightened, very scared, very angry,” Pamela recalls, “but we said, ‘She's going to live. So where's the answer?’”
They brought her to NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital — one of the few places researching hepatoblastoma genetics targeting the molecular biology of individual patients' tumors. They put themselves in the care of Dr. Darrell J. Yamashiro, a pediatric oncologist specializing in the treatment of children with liver cancer.
Pamela was also thrilled at the opportunity to take a holistic approach through the Center for Comprehensive Wellness, where doctors integrated alternative therapies, supportive care, and survivorship wellness into Skylar's treatment, right from day one.
Dr. Yamashiro first prescribed neoadjuvant chemotherapy to shrink Skylar's tumor. This allowed renowned liver surgeon Dr. Tomoaki Kato to reduce the risk of complications during the surgical resection he would later perform. Skylar continued to receive combination chemotherapy and completed her treatment that September.
Today, Skylar has no evidence — or real knowledge — of the cancer she overcame. Her parents are ready with pictures and details for whenever she asks. For now, Skylar is a bright-eyed, seven-year-old preschooler who loves to swim and read books about koalas.
Hepatoblastoma is the most common liver tumor in children, with most cases diagnosed before the age of five. It is treated with chemotherapy and requires complete surgical resection (removal) in order to cure the patient. Which is why optimal treatment requires a multidisciplinary team that includes pediatric oncologists, pediatric surgeons, liver transplant surgeons, liver specialists, and interventional radiologists.