Illyria’s patient story began with a strange warning sign – she stopped growing. Up until that point, the twelve-year-old had always been one of the tallest kids in her class, but her friends had overtaken her in height dramatically by 2015.
“We thought it was unusual, so we visited our pediatrician,” recalls Illyria’s mother, Julie. “He referred us to McMaster Children’s Hospital, where testing revealed that a deficiency of growth hormone was stunting her growth.”
Investigation of Illyria’s hormone deficiency in 2016 included an MRI scan of her brain, which led to the discovery of a brain tumour.
An uncertain future
“Telling her about the tumour was really tough,” says Julie. “Her first question was, ‘Am I going to die?’ I was confident that the team at McMaster Children’s Hospital would do everything possible to help her, but it was a terrifying situation.”
A brain biopsy revealed that the tumour was cancerous. Surgery was not a viable option, so she underwent four rounds of intensive chemotherapy.
“Although Illyria lost her hair and became very frail, she kept a positive outlook on life and was determined to beat cancer.”
Illyria’s also received blood transfusions at McMaster Children’s Hospital and 20 rounds of radiation at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre.
A ray of light
“After nine months of treatment, Illyria’s cancer was in remission,” says Julie. “She was so happy when she could return to school and spend time with her friends again.”
“The care we receive at Hamilton Health Sciences is outstanding.”
Although Illyria’s treatment is over, she visits McMaster Children’s Hospital several times a year for testing and ongoing growth-hormone treatment to support her physical development.
The continuing journey
Illyria also receives care for additional medical conditions, including a life-threatening form of adrenal insufficiency and a rare form of diabetes.
“The care we receive at Hamilton Health Sciences is outstanding,” says Julie. “We will always be grateful for the expertise and kindness that helped our daughter beat brain cancer.”
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Read more stories from the spring/summer Vital newsletter.