CADYVILLE - The date March 4, 2010, is one Tammi S. Reil will never forget.
It's the day her niece, 5-year-old Audrey Napper, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare form of childhood cancer. Audrey, the daughter of Reil's brother, Neil and his wife, Missy, had been under the weather for several weeks, said Reil, and hadn't been responding to normal remedies.
"She didn't want to eat and she was throwing up a lot," explained Reil.
Audrey's parents had her examined and when they and Reil heard the word rhabdomyosarcoma, they had no idea what it meant, said Reil.
"We had to go onto the Internet and learn about it," said Reil. "And, I'll tell you, the news we got on the Internet was not promising."
What Audrey's family learned, said Reil, was only 30 percent of children that have rhabdomyosarcoma have signs of progress for five years or more. Beyond that, nothing is certain, she said.
Though the information gave a potentially bleak forecast for anyone with rhabdomyosarcoma, Reil said there have been many signs for hope in Audrey's particular case. Having now undergone a steady regimen of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the initial tumors that have invaded Audrey's body have responded well. Even sores Audrey developed in her mouth and throat from the radiation treatments have dissipated, allowing her to be removed from a feeding tube and eat solid foods again.
"It's cute because every time she tries to eat something again she'll say, 'Oh, it's just like I remembered it,'" said Reil.
Though Audrey is seeing signs of progress, Reil said she and the Nappers recognize Audrey has "a long road ahead."
"She'll still have chemo treatments every week until the end of April. She's on a treatment plan that takes 54 weeks," Reil explained. "But, at least now we know that it's working."