Our sweet little girl, Olivia Rae Hudson, was born on April 17, 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 2 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 or 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 not be soon enough.
On July 4th, 2011, while getting ready for a family barbecue, her symptoms worsened and we ended up rushing Olivia 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. 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.
The first surgery was scheduled within a couple days and 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 these would be the words we would cling to as parents for many months to come. A second surgery followed in those first couple weeks, 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. There she underwent 3 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 surgery and 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 was enduring, 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, until… almost a year to her date of diagnosis, Olivia ended up back at Children’s Hospital with symptoms similar to what she had experienced one year prior. Amazingly, 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 was to begin as soon as possible.
Olivia completed another month of radiation but with no affect to the cancer. It was time to make an impossible decision on what our next course of action would be. It wasn’t long before Olivia was back in the ER again as her symptoms progressed. Everything was getting worse and at an alarmingly fast rate. It was here that we were given the news that regardless of our next steps we were losing our little girl and fast. We could pursue further experimental chemotherapy but with no guarantee this 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 when you are a patient in the hospital. We wanted Olivia’s last days to be filled with the people she loved and the things she wanted to do. So with our hearts broken we took our daughter home to be with her in her final days. If it was a good day for Olivia we would take her to Sea World or for walks or anywhere that would put a smile on her face.
Unfortunately her health was deteriorating fast 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 as her disease progressed. It wasn’t long before Olivia’s waking hours were almost non-existent and she slipped into a coma. At this point 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 said “here mom” as she handed over the mask. 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 during this final moment with her. 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 19, 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 beat. As a parent it’s our job to care for our children and to do everything in our power to promote their health and well-being. As a family we are committed to fighting this battle against childhood cancer. We are committed to do whatever it takes to save another child from this disease and another parent from the heartache of losing a child.