“Your daughter has a 4-inch by 9-inch mass in her abdomen and we think it’s cancer.”
Those are words no parent ever wants to hear. My daughter was nine years old and we were visiting great grandma in South Dakota. My daughter hadn’t been eating well and while we were at the pool she complained of shortness of breath. We decided to have her checked out at the local emergency room and after several hours we were told the devastating news. Wings of Hope flew her and her mom to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. In 2003, PET was a new cancer imaging modality and we were lucky Mayo had a scanner. After a scan and a biopsy, we found out that my daughter had Stage IV Burkett’s lymphoma. Not what we had hoped to hear, but this type of cancer has a 90% successful treatment rate in children.
A cancer diagnosis is devastating to anyone but especially if it is your child. She lost her hair due to the chemo, but she was a fighter and always stayed positive. When it was time for her PET scans, there was always the stress of wondering what the images would show. Was the tumor smaller or larger? Had it spread? There was also stress watching your child having an IV started during her PET scans and I often wondered if all the radiopharmaceutical was in her circulation. This added even more stress on top of what the scan results would show. I wish the Lara® System had been available to us back then; using Lara during my daughter’s PET scan injections would have given us more peace of mind. I think monitoring the injection should be a standard of care – part of the procedure. Since our experience, I have learned that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is responsible for the medical use of isotopes but does not require radioactive injection monitoring. Parents need to know if their child has had some of the radiotracer in their arm and not in circulation. Parents need to know how much accidental radiation exposure their child is receiving.
Our story, fortunately, has a happy ending. My daughter is now a healthy 26 year old ICU nurse who cares passionately about her patients. She can empathize because of her own experience. An experience, that no child and parent should have to go through. But if they do, my hope is that all parents can have Lara monitor their children’s nuclear medicine injections so they can have peace of mind and reassurance the injection and imaging were done correctly.