Most of us go through life never being touched by genuine tragedy. This isn't true for the Grimballs. Two years ago, six-year-old Elizabeth Grimball was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor cancer. She lost one of her kidneys to the ordeal, but after an intensive round of chemotherapy, Elizabeth was considered cured.
When Elizabeth began to suffer leg pain in October of 1997, her parents rushed to seek medical help. Even though the child insisted she was in terrible pain and she was examined multiple times by different medical professionals, no one could find a physical explanation. So Elizabeth's pain was diagnosed as psychological.
Without any pain medications, Elizabeth bravely struggled through counseling sessions and physical therapy as her health continued to decline. She lost the use of both her legs and was eventually confined to a wheelchair, but the diagnosis never changed. The last week of January, 1998, Elizabeth had a seizure due to a tumor in her brain and another on her spine. Immediate brain surgery was successful in relieving the pressure causing the seizures. At that time, her medical team projected she had a maximum of six weeks to live.
Summer 1998 Update. This is summer, and Elizabeth is still alive. She is having intensive chemotherapy which racks her body with nausea for days. Each time she has a treatment she loses five pounds, so she has been put on intravenous nutritional supplements at night. Fortunately for the Grimballs, Wilms Tumor is very responsive to chemotherapy. The last scan showed that the tumor in Elizabeth's brain has practically disappeared and the spinal tumor is now considered manageable. Elizabeth is still paralyzed in her legs, but mobility in her arms has returned, and her vision and speech have improved immensely.
Now the Grimballs have decisions to make about radiation therapy and surgery to remove the remaining tumor on Elizabeth's spine. In addition to their concern over curing the cancer, her parents must now decide what approach to take to make sure there is no additional damage to her spinal cord. Elizabeth has had a few twinges below her waist, so there is hope she may walk again.
October 1998 Update. During the summer Elizabeth's tolerance for her on-going chemotherapy weakened and she experienced infections and increased nausea and weight loss. Her doctors determined they needed to take a different approach to her treatment. Elizabeth entered the hospital on October 20 for an intensive round of chemotherapy to be followed by a stem cell transplant. She will be in isolation for four to six weeks, as any infection during the time her blood counts are down could be fatal.
Elizabeth has become frustrated with the length and severity of her treatments and her spirit has failed her recently. As odd as it sounds, she is actually looking forward to this round of chemotherapy; she sees it as her final treatment. We all hope when Elizabeth recovers from this ordeal she will be cancer free.
Unfortunately, the consensus among the professionals is she will not regain the use of her legs until there are neurological advancements in medicine, but her parents are determined to make Elizabeth's life as normal as possible.
Although she has not been able to attend school on a regular basis since February, Elizabeth has visited her new fourth-grade class numerous times this school year. Her class gave her a party two weeks ago for encouragement during her coming weeks in the hospital. It is this type of support from friends, from our community and from the many caring people who have sent cards and gifts that enables Elizabeth to keep up her daily fight.
Please address all correspondence for Elizabeth to:
c/o Grimball, Cotterill & Associates
600 Beltline Boulevard
Columbia, SC 29205
The Grimball's, along with Elizabeth, wish to thank the many caring people who have already sent cards and gifts. Elizabeth has received greetings from around the world. Her family is convinced that the love, hope, and encouragement expressed through these cards helps Elizabeth in her daily fight.
The Grimballs encourage parents of children with Wilms Tumor to become active advocates. If their daughter had been treated when her symptoms first appeared she might not be paralyzed today. Acting quickly before further damage occurs is key -- search the internet, research in a medical library, get multiple opinions. Until a biopsy proved them wrong, Elizabeth's doctors maintained that Wilms Tumor doesn't reappear in the brain or spine. There are many documented cases that prove otherwise.
About Wilms Tumor
Wilms' tumor is a solid tumor that originates in the kidney. It usually occurs in children under age 15. Adults can develop Wilms Tumor, but this is very rare.
Patients with localized tumors have a 90% cure rate when treated with surgery and chemotherapy or surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy combined. The most dangerous complication is the spreading of Wilms Tumor to the lungs, liver, bone, brain, or other kidney. This is what happened to Eizabeth.
If you would like to learn more about Wilms Tumor, please visit these links:
American Cancer Society: Wilms Tumor Resource Center
CancerNet: Wilms Tumor
National Cancer Institute: Wilms Tumor
New York Online Access to Health (NOAH): Wilms Tumor
Wilms Tumor Survivors: Future Risks
St. Jude's on Wilms Tumor
Children's Cancer Web: Wilms Tumor Page
We also recommend:
A Website for Parents of Children with Cancer
Families of Children with Cancer
Wilms Tumor Home Pages: Stories and Faces
Against the Odds (book review)
Elizabeth's page was created on April 13, 1998.
The most recent update: October 26, 1998
©1998 by Ginnie.Com