LAND O’LAKES, Florida – – A 4-year-old Pasco County girl is struggling with medulloblastoma after experiencing symptoms earlier this year.
Gabriela and Andrew Southwick said their daughter developed a headache and neck pain in January 2021. Her parents took her to a pediatrician.
“They said it didn’t sound serious. It could be gastrointestinal disease, just wait and see,” recalled Gabriela Southwick.
As the symptoms progressed, her parents took her to a doctor again.
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“We went to the emergency room a couple of times. They gave her IV fluids because they thought it was a gastrointestinal virus,” she added.
Doctors performed a CT scan and diagnosed Emersyn with stage 4 medulloblastoma.
According to the Mayo Clinic, medulloblastoma is a malignant (malignant) brain tumor that begins in the lower back part of the brain called the cerebellum. The cerebellum is involved in muscle coordination, balance, and movement.
“It’s one of the most common brain tumors in children. Stage four just means it has spread so they couldn’t remove a single tumor. Although they removed one tumor initially,” Gabriela said.
“I would say we were in shock for several days after the initial diagnosis,” added Emersyn’s father Andrew.
The 4-year-old received chemotherapy. She had complications and was admitted to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital for almost 6 months. She also needed radiation. Her parents took her to the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando.
Emersyn rang the doorbell about 2 weeks ago.
“With the radiation, in the end, regardless of whether you are actually cancer-free or no more tumors are seen, they ring the bell because it’s a great achievement and one and the same with the radiation. We can’t go back and do more.” Radiation, if that works it’s great. If not, we can’t go back and do more, “said Gabriela.
Emersyn’s fight continues. She will be in a clinical trial and will take oral medication twice a day.
“There is a lot of grief and a lot of heartbreak because you have plans and hopes for your child, and that’s why we really struggled with it,” said Gabriela.
Andrew and Gabriela both quit their teaching jobs in Pasco County to take care of their daughter. Both taught at Sunlake High School.
Friends launched a GoFundMe page to raise funds online.
“We are just incredibly lucky that our community, the people we love most, have grown stronger. I mean, it’s amazing and overwhelming because I’m not asking for help, ”said Gabriela.
“You never think it’s going to be your child, or especially not because of something as small as neck pain or vomiting. The scary part is how most childhood cancers are diagnosed … like such a minor symptom, all of a sudden.” they weird or they complained that their leg hurts, little things like that, “she added.