Hanna's Story

March 2003 Patient of the Month

2 years old Hanna Gibson

Diagnosis: Hanna was found to have a brain tumor called Anaplastic Astrocytoma in February 2002.

Hanna's Story: "Did Hanna hurt her neck?" the baby sitter asked Hanna's mother over the phone. Hanna had been perfectly fine when her mother had left for work. But now the little girl seemed unable to straighten her neck. Deciding to err on the side of caution, Hanna's mother called the pediatrician who surprisingly asked that Hanna be brought in immediately.

"I was thinking ear infection," her mom said. But it was worst than anything she had imagined.

As the pediatrician watched Hanna walk down a hallway, a suspicion arose. He sent the family to a local children's hospital for a CAT scan with orders for the scan to look in one particular area of Hanna's brain. It was in that exact location—at the base of Hanna's brain—that a tumor called Anaplastic Astrocytoma was found.

"I was in denial," Mom said, refusing to believe that her daughter, who had been perfectly fine less than 24 hours earlier, was now facing a battle with cancer. "It's a high-grade glioma. They are really bad because before you even know the tumor is there it is taking up the whole brain."

Hanna's mom said she was thankful that her daughter's physician had caught it when Hanna first displayed symptoms. It has given her a fighting chance.

Surgery removed the tumor, but the chances of it returning were great. To continue the fight, Hanna was referred to St. Jude.

At St. Jude: Hanna began a regimen of chemotherapy to eliminate any cancerous cells that remained. But the tumor soon returned.

A second operation took place, where doctors were able to remove almost 95 percent of the new tumor. But the last bits were in a spot too delicate for a surgeon's tools. Hanna's radiation treatments were moved up in the hopes of finally destroying the tumor.

"It's still there," her mom said. "It's not much but they tell me it's definitely there and they are hoping the radiation will take care of it. We just have to pray that the radiation takes care of it."