Olivia Rae Hudson, our sweet little girl, was born on April 17th, 2009. Olivia was
our little light! Her presence filled the room, and it was difficult to silence all that
personality in such a little body. She had a smile that could make anyone’s day!
Vibrant, energetic, silly, fun-loving, feisty, rambunctious, full of life and full of love -
that was our Olivia... Carving her own path, knowing exactly what she wanted and
determined to get it. She was our love.
We enjoyed two full years with our little girl before our worst fears as parents
would be realized. At first we thought she had come down with a stomach bug…
then possibly an ear infection. Or was it just a 2-year-old being picky about eating,
then not eating at all? Being two, she wasn’t able to communicate how she was
really feeling. But when Olivia’s left eye started to cross, we knew that further
attention was needed. In an effort to make an immediate appointment with a
specialist, we found ourselves on a waiting list that would unfortunately keep us
waiting too long.
On July 4th, 2011, while getting ready for a family barbecue, Olivia's symptoms worsened and we rushed her to the Emergency Room at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego. After a CAT Scan and MRI, it was confirmed that Olivia had a large mass in her brain and would need to be admitted to the ICU immediately. In what felt like an out-of-body experience, we watched more and more hospital staff appear and attempt to explain what was going on with our daughter.
Her first surgery was scheduled a couple days later. Before going under the anesthesia, Olivia’s last words were, “Daddy, God is good,” and she began singing “Jesus Loves Me.” Little did we know that these would be the words we would cling to as parents for many months to come. A second surgery followed, after which she spent a month in the ICU recovering. It was during that time period that we were informed that Olivia had lost her ability to speak, swallow, and almost all movement in her body. Only time would tell what she would be able to regain.
A biopsy of the tumor that had been removed confirmed that Olivia had a Pineoblastoma. She was transferred to the Hematology/Oncology wing of Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, where she spent the next two months. She underwent three rounds of chemotherapy, followed by six weeks of radiation at the Moore’s Cancer Center in La Jolla. After completing the radiation, six months of oral chemotherapy was administered at home.
Throughout her battle with cancer, Olivia was simultaneously battling to recover the functions she had lost during her initial brain surgery. She attended speech, occupational and physical therapies almost daily. We were thrilled when Olivia finally started talking again four months after her first surgery, and we rejoiced with every milestone that followed. Some of these accomplishments were the ability to swallow and the use of her complete right side and her left leg which enabled her to stand and, with help, take steps. In time, she was able to slightly move her left arm, which she affectionately called “Lefty.” Despite the major trials that she endured, Olivia didn’t complain or protest; and even during her stays in the hospital, she had “happy moments” with her sisters and family.
She continued to make huge strides toward recovery and we felt she was doing great! But then, almost a year from the date of her diagnosis, Olivia ended up back at Rady Children’s Hospital with symptoms similar to what she had experienced one year prior. Yet in spite of those symptoms, the MRI showed that Olivia’s scans were clean! We had received the best news of our lives - Olivia was cancer-free!
We thought the war was over, but little did we know, we had simply won a battle. After just a few short months, our world came crashing down again in November of 2012. This time we received news that Olivia’s MRI and spinal tap showed signs of reoccurrence and was more aggressive than ever. Treatment began immediately.
Olivia completed another month of radiation but with no effect to the cancer. We faced impossible decisions as to what our next course of action should be. But it wasn’t long before Olivia was in the ER again as her symptoms rapidly worsened, and we learned that regardless of our next steps, we were losing our little girl and fast. We could pursue further experimental chemotherapy, but there was no guarantee that it would give her more time, and most likely would make her uncomfortable with all the possible side effects.
We knew that what Olivia really wanted was to be home, unhooked from all the machines and IV’s and constant monitoring that are standard as a hospital patient. We wanted Olivia’s last days to be filled with love, joy, and comfort - surrounded by the people she loved and doing the things she wanted to do. So with our hearts broken and heavy, we took our daughter home to be with her in her final days. When she had a good day, we would take Olivia to Sea World, or for walks under the sun, or anywhere that would put a smile on her face.
Unfortunately, Olivia's health deteriorated quickly and she was soon put on Home Hospice. We found ourselves adding more and more medicines to her daily routine just to keep her comfortable. It wasn’t long before Olivia’s waking hours were almost non-existent, and she slipped into a coma. It was only a matter of time before she would succumb to her disease; but in true Olivia form, she gave us one last goodbye. On the day that we thought would be Olivia’s last, the entire family gathered around her bed to be with her in her final hours. Olivia wowed us as she came to around 2 a.m., pulled off her oxygen mask and handed it over, saying “Here, Mom.” She requested her favorite sparkly princess shoes be brought to her because she needed to put them on, and her next order of business was getting her iPad so she could play her favorite games. We hugged and kissed our sweet girl and told her how much we loved her during this final moment. Sadly, Olivia’s burst of energy was short-lived, and soon she returned to a coma from which she would not awake. We lost our precious little girl on March 19th, 2013, just a month shy of her 4th birthday.
Losing a child is a devastating tragedy; but even worse is to watch your child be torn apart by a disease they can’t defeat and that you can't beat for them. As parents, it’s our job to care for our children and do everything in our power to promote their health and well-being. Our fight doesn't stop because we lost Olivia - our fight continues because our love for her lives on, and we know there is so much more to do. As a family, we are committed to fighting this battle against childhood cancer. We are committed to doing whatever it takes to save another child from this disease and another parent from the heartache of losing a child to it.