Born in March, 2015, our daughter Elizabeth was a healthy 7 lb., 4 oz. baby girl. After thinking we wouldn’t be able to have children, she was our dream come true. At six-months-old, we learned that what we thought was a lingering viral infection was actually a large mass that had been restricting her airway. After discovering this, doctors in North Dakota immediately sent us on a flight to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN where they knew she could be best tested and treated.
Upon arriving at Mayo Clinic, Elizabeth underwent more X-rays, an ultrasound and a biopsy of the mass. It all happened so fast. We soon learned what the mass was – Neuroblastoma. I remember my husband asking what exactly it was and if it was cancer. The response was yes, it was a type of childhood cancer.
This is when everything in our lives changed without warning. Our world was turned upside down and our little miracle baby would begin the journey of her life and she didn’t have a clue what was going on.
My husband needed to return home to work and Elizabeth and I would continue on her journey. After weeks of treatment and monitoring in the hospital, we were released and were able to stay at the Ronald McDonald House®. Although Elizabeth continued to have occasional overnight stays at the hospital, the Ronald McDonald House® became our “home-away-from-home” as she completed cancer treatments.
The House was clean and the staff was so friendly – we felt so secure being there. It meant so much that we were just minutes from the hospital and doctors in case something happened. For Elizabeth’s first Christmas, we were unable to go out in public due to her compromised immune system. Santa came to the House and Elizabeth had her picture with him – it meant so much to us!
The support we received during her journey has been unbelievable. I gained so much strength from other families. Just being able to talk about what was going on or hanging out to pass time was amazing. Many of the people we met at the House we now consider family.
Today Elizabeth is in remission and doing great. She is growing like a weed and discovers something new every day – it never ceases to amaze us how much she’s learning. Her hair is starting to come back and she recently celebrated her first birthday. We look forward to the day we can share Elizabeth’s story with her. She’ll never remember going through it but we know it will make her a stronger person throughout her life. If you met her today, you’d never know the battle she has fought on the inside. The doctors told us in the beginning that children are resilient. I wasn’t sure about this at first, but Elizabeth has made me a believer.
-Karen Burns, Elizabeth’s mom