Pearce was diagnosed on Feb 22, 2008 with a mass in her brain the size of a small lemon and was transferred to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia the next day after a MRI confirmed the CT-scan from the night before. On Feb 25, 2008, she underwent surgery to remove what was known as a medulloblastoma or PNET tumor. The surgery was considered a success, as the surgeon did a total gross resection of the tumor. Five days later we were told that it was malignant and she would need continued treatment.
After this news we looked into options, and there were few, since this is a rare type of cancer in children. We believe only fifteen percent of children treated have this type of tumor. We were told she was standard risk which has a 85-90%, five year survival rate. The next day we where told that they had a misleading report from her spinal tap, due to inflammation in the spinal fluid, and her risk level was changed to high. This greatly reduced her chances of survival, the average was 50% survival rate.
We spoke to her nuero oncologist, who treats this tumor in about twenty to twenty-five cases a year, to discuss options about her treatment and the long term affects of treatment. We decided to try an aggressive protocol that was in a clinical trail phase for the last few years with promising results and a possible increase in survival to 70%.
Pearce underwent thirty-one rounds of high dose radiation to her brain and spine at U of PENN Hospital. This treatment was daily, and had adverse side affects, yet she still was able to smile and most importantly Pearce befriended several of the adult patients and made them smile. Several of these patients still correspond with her today. Prior to her start of this treatment she had about 3 million stem cells removed from her blood and a whole battery of base line tests.
After a six week break Pearce started chemotherapy which consisted of three days of chemo, one day of IV flush, stem cell transplant on the fifth day, then twenty-three days of trying to get her blood counts back to safe levels. This was all done inpatient with her mother or father with her twenty-four/seven.
After each round we had a week off from inpatient which included three to four trips back to the hospital for testing including tests to her lungs, heart, ears, blood, learning ability and a MRI. The MRI test was three hours long and she had to be under sedation due to the fact she could not move in any way. She has had at least ten MRI tests this year.
Pearce started helping others immediately after her brain surgery. She participated in a protocol study on the effects of acetaminophen use in IV infusion while in the Intensive Care Unit. She was involved in a Radio-thon at the hospital to raise funds for the hospital. Pearce flew to California to participate in Stand Up To Cancer, which raised over $117,000,000 for cancer research. During her trip to CA she had to go to Los Angeles Children's Hospital twice for tests and was still able to make friends while there. The day after she returned she walked around Six Flags Great Adventure to help raise $37,000 for Cure Kids Cancer, all this while on her week break between treatments.
Pearce, now 17, is an incredible child who sets and achieves high goals. Recently Pearce won the Prudential Spirit of Service Award and the Governor’s Youth service award for her work with the Foundation as well as the ABC Network Summer of Service Award. She currently is a senior at Padua Academy. Pearce works a part time job, manages the school softball team, and is looking forward to a bright future as she applies to colleges with a major in Public Relations. Pearce is devoted to giving back to children with cancer and help make their struggle a little more bearable. Pearce knows that she is considered one of the “lucky” kids in the fight against childhood cancer and has a great desire to help others as much as she can.
One thing Pearce has taught us is that no matter what life brings, everything will be okay. Her ability to face fear and conquer it is inspiring to many people. Pearce believes that we need to enjoy life today and not worry about tomorrow. During October of 2013, Pearce was told her status is "In Remission", the words she and her family been waiting to hear for since the diagnosis was first made. While we can now rest easy knowing that Pearce has won her battle, we know that so many others cannot.
Pearce founded the Pearce Q. Foundation, Inc., a foundation set up to help her to achieve this goal in order to help the children who are still fighting cancer. She states, “I am tired of seeing my friends die of this disease. Children should be in schools learning, on playgrounds playing and spending time with their family; they should not have to lie in a hospital bed and fight for their lives. I beat cancer, and I will not stop until ever child diagnosed can say the same”. We hope you find Pearce’s story inspiring and look forward to your support to help all children still fighting childhood cancer.
Watch Pearce's video on You Tube to better understand her last year.