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Casey Neff was a happy, seemingly healthy baby. But shortly before her first birthday, her grandmother noticed a small lump on Casey’s neck. UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh's radiologists used MRI to identify a suspect lymph node; a biopsy showed neuroblastoma. Because of her grandmother’s close scrutiny, Casey’s cancer was found and diagnosed in its earliest stage.
“It all happened so quickly,” says Casey’s mom, Cindy Neff. “Although she had been receiving chemotherapy for several months, it wasn’t until they took out the tumor that I believed she really had cancer.”
After surgeons removed the tumor, Casey still needed chemotherapy, radiation and an autologous bone marrow transplant to eliminate all the cancer cells.
Her doctor, Jean M. Tersak, MD, recognized that Casey was a good candidate for a new treatment that was potentially more effective against neuroblastomas, using a monoclonal antibody along with interleukin. For four to five days every three weeks, she was infused.
“She had a doll with her in the hospital,” says Cindy. “The staff would show her on the doll what they were going to do, and the Child Life staff would help distract her with bubbles, or Debbie Benkovitz, the music therapist, would play her guitar and sing.”
For Casey’s family, strict visitation policies could have increased the strain.
Fortunately, UPMC Children’s Hospital invites one parent to stay in the child’s room around the clock. “I don’t know how she would have reacted waking up without me there,” says Cindy.
At home, Casey’s 7-year-old sister Erin was very concerned, but UPMC Children’s had made it possible for her to visit. “Erin attended SIBS Day (Significantly Important Brothers and Sisters Day),” says Cindy. “I think it helped her a lot.”
Today, Casey is growing and thriving, with no evidence of neuroblastoma.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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Interested in giving to Children's Hospital? Support the hospital by making a donation online, joining our Heroes in Healing monthly donor program, or visiting our site to learn about the other ways you can give back.