Young fighter celebrates second win over cancer

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — A recent afternoon in the treatment area at Topeka’s Cotton O’Neil Cancer Center brought the joy and laughter that only a certain milestone can bring.

“Last day of treatment! We are ready to celebrate!” Brandi Hase said with a smile.

Brandi’s 18-month-old daughter Briella has beaten cancer — twice!

“We just went in for a regular pit visit appointment and the doctor felt a lump in her abdomen, and three days later we had surgery,” Brandi recalls.

When they were four months old, doctors removed one of Briella’s kidneys. She was declared cancer free, without further treatment. But six months later, scans showed a new mass.

“It was just as bad (the second time),” Brandi said. “You try to stay strong for them, but at the same time you hurt them too.”

Briella was diagnosed with Wilm’s Tumor, a form of kidney cancer.

dr. Youmna Othman, a pediatric oncologist at Cotton O’Neil Cancer Center, says the cancer diagnosis is felt outside the patient.

“It turns the life of the whole family upside down,” she says.

While childhood cancer treatment has come a long way, Dr. Othman that there is still work to be done.

“We’ve become great at treating cancer for children, but at the same time, we still can’t walk in and say your kids have cancer and we’ve got the treatment, winless. There are still some cancers that we’re struggling with unfortunately ‘, she said.

That means we still need research into new and better treatments for children with cancer. Not only to ensure that they survive, but also thrive. The same treatments that kill the cancer and save a child’s life can also damage healthy organs.

“You could have lung effects, you could have kidney problems, cognitive delays, heart problems — whatever organ system you can think of, you name it, there will be a late effect,” said Dr. Othman. “(It) may not mean much when they go through treatment, but when they’re done and they’re trying to go back to their lives in their late teens or early 20s, early 30s, and they’re struggling with that — that is difficult.”

For now, Briella’s family is celebrating the end of this difficult time. dr. Othman, nurses and other staff threw confetti and gave her gifts to mark the milestone and, hopefully, bring better days ahead.

“It closes one chapter and is ready for the next,” Brandi said. “I am so blessed that we have come to this point. There are so many families and so many children who do not get this experience. To know that my baby is about to ring the bell and we can say she’s going to be fine – it’s amazing, really.”

Briella has two sisters, so Brandi was especially grateful to have a pediatric oncologist like Dr. Othman was in Topeka so Briella could get her chemotherapy treatments close to home. She had to travel for some of her previous procedures.

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