In March of 2008, two year old Phoebe began complaining of a sore stomach and stopped eating. Although doctors put her symptoms down to constipation, she eventually became so tired that she needed to be carried everywhere. After experiencing excruciating pain, parents Chris and Rona took Phoebe to Raigmore Hospital, Inverness, where she was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. After testing, it was confirmed that a tumour had originated in Phoebe’s adrenal gland and spread to her lymph nodes, bone marrow and 95% of her bones.
With a 20% chance of survival, Phoebe began treatment at Yorkhill Hospital for Sick Children in Glasgow. Her treatment plan consisted of initial chemotherapy, stem cell harvest and transplant, surgery, high dose chemotherapy, radiotherapy and differentiation treatment – six months of Retinoic Acid to restrain the abnormally fast growth of cancer cells.
After four rounds of chemotherapy, an ultrasound revealed that Phoebe’s tumour had reduced in size from 5cm to 1.5cm. Bone marrow tests done under general anaesthetic also came back clear, and full body scans indicated that the only remaining neuroblastoma cells were at the site of Phoebe’s primary tumour in her adrenal gland. After eight rounds of chemotherapy, Phoebe underwent surgery to remove the tumour which was larger than surgeons expected and wrapped around her spleen, aorta, and attached to her kidney. The tumour and Phoebe’s adrenal gland were removed and all other organs remained unaffected by the neuroblastoma.
Following surgery, Phoebe had her stem cells harvested and transplanted after receiving high dose chemotherapy. At this time, Phoebe developed a life threatening chest infection. Without an immune system to fight the infection, Phoebe became critically ill. She spent 15 days in the intensive care unit fighting for her life. As Phoebe’s condition slowly became more stable, doctors were concerned that she was not reacting as expected and may have some brain damage. Phoebe was sent for brain scans which luckily revealed no damage to her brain.
Only one month later, Phoebe was walking and talking again and ready to commence her radiation treatment. Phoebe had three weeks of radiotherapy at Beatson Oncology Centre, Glasgow, and was discharged in November 2008. The final part of Phoebe’s treatment was a differentiation drug which she was able to take at home on a daily basis. After further testing, doctors confirmed that Phoebe was in remission. At this time, the Macaskill family made the decision not to take Phoebe to the US for antibody treatment.
Phoebe completed her treatment in May of 2009 and now receives routine testing in Inverness and Glasgow. April 2012 marks four years since Phoebe was diagnosed with neuroblastoma and today, Phoebe remains in remission.