Monday, February 27, 2006 is the day that our lives changed forever. Sierra was diagnosed with a 2” brain tumor called Pilocytic Astrocytoma which is located on her brain stem.
She was admitted that same day to the UIHC for further tests and consulting with Neurosurgery team and schedule surgery to remove the tumor.
Surgery was scheduled for Friday March 3rd. After 8 hours of surgery, Dr Greenlee informed us that he was not able to reach the tumor to remove it, but he did get enough for a biopsy. We were told that they scheduled another surgery for Tuesday March 7th and Dr Menezes and Dr Greenlee would work together.
On Monday March 6th, we meet with the team and they let us know their plan for the next day. Biopsy results had been a rush order and it was confirmed it was cancer and the type of tumor they were dealing with.
After 8 long hours, the Dr’s told us that they were able to remove approximately 50% of the tumor. They were uncertain at the actual size because it is in and around the stem, but they removed what they could.
The next days, weeks and months were hard on all of us, but Sierra was a warrior through all of it.
The next year consisted of surgery for port placement, chemo, blood draws, MRI’s (we stopped counting at 50), spinal taps, emergency surgery for shunt placement, and 7-10 days each month in the hospital for fevers and antibiotics. The worst being in isolation when they couldn’t pinpoint the cause of the infection.
She relapsed in July of 2008 and had to undergo 28 rounds of radiation. She relapsed again in February 2010 and in March had a catheter placed through her skull to have easy access to drain the fluid from the tumor. During the placement, they drained 12cc of fluid from the tumor. In July of 2010 the MRI showed fluid buildup so they attempted to access and drain from the catheter. It was faulty and needed to be replaced. The shunt not functioning as it should. Surgery was scheduled for August and they replaced the shunt and catheter. A month later she was sleeping a lot and said she didn’t feel well and was tired. Two days later (on a Sunday) she woke up and came out holding her head and said, you need to take me to the hospital, my head is going to explode. Within 15 mins of being in the ER, we had the entire Neurosurgery team in her room. I knew it was bad, that never happens. The shunt had quit working and the ventricles were so enlarged it was pushing her brain against her skull and the left side of the brain was overlapping the right. Emergency surgery to replace the shunt. I will never forget that Dr Reddy was so stunned at how calm she was. He said (with tears in his eyes) I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of pain she must be in and most people would be climbing the walls. I went into the operating room with her and as they were putting her under Dr Reddy was holding her hand and gave her a kiss on the forehead. At that moment I wasn’t worried and knew she was in great hands and that God had blessed us with all these amazing doctors, hospital and staff.
She has been treatment free since September 2010 and in October of 2019 was officially moved to “survivor status” by ALL of her doctors at the U.