“A tumor in her eye. Impending loss of vision. And complete paralysis. Until we took an expert second opinion” – Somasekhar, F/O Varsha, Cancer Winner

25 Jan, 2022

It was April 2016 when 3-year-old Varsha’s parents noticed a swelling in the corner of her right eye and this was right after she had gotten hit in the same place while playing with a ball a few days back, considering the same, the swelling was initially attributed as an injury while playing. A few more days passed by it was observed that the swelling had rapidly increased and Varsha’s right eye had started to protrude out rapidly. She had developed intermittent fever followed by severe pain in her legs because of which she could not walk. The worried parents rushed to an eye hospital where the ophthalmologist suggested her to undergo a CT scan of the orbits. The scan showed a large tumor in the bones of her eye socket. Post which a biopsy was also done, but no definitive diagnosis could be made.

As Varsha’s condition started deteriorating rapidly, the family approached HCG – The Specialist in Cancer Care. Upon examining Varsha, the doctors noted that she had significant weakness in both her limbs. The specialists advised her parents to get her admitted immediately with a concern that there could be a tumor which was creating pressure on the spinal cord and causing a paralysis, In view of these new observations, a PET-CT scan was recommended. The scans showed an extensive tumor spread across various bones in the body including the backbone and the primary tumor was detected in her left adrenal gland situated above the kidney. Later the pathologist examined her eye mass biopsy and performed a special procedure called IHC and diagnosed it as a case of neuroblastoma, the family was devastated after the diagnosis

This condition also involved a high-risk genetic change in the tumor. Varsha was given chemotherapy as per the European protocol Rapid COJEC. She showed rapid improvement as the swelling in her eye and the weakness in her leg reduced soon after the chemotherapy was started, Varsha was soon able to walk after only two cycles of the treatment. After completing 8 cycles of chemotherapy, she underwent a surgery of the left adrenal tumor. The PET-CT scans after 8 cycles of chemotherapy showed a complete response with no signs of disease detected in the reports. The pathology report of the mass removed during the surgery was also negative for any active disease.

During this period she had loss of appetite and weight loss which improved significantly after being put on appetite stimulants. Post this surgery, she had her bone marrow stem cells collected and underwent high dose chemotherapy followed by autologous bone marrow transplantation. Post which she completed radiation to the initial tumor site in the abdomen and underwent maintenance treatment with cis-retinoic acid for another six months. Varsha is now off therapy and doing well, during this period the family underwent a huge mental trauma but received the much needed emotional support from the team of specialists at HCG who stood by the family in the complete journey from treatment to recovery. Varsha has now resumed going to school and she enjoys painting and dancing.

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