Thursday, March 27, 1997

Ashley O'Rear coming home from hospital

Daily Light Publisher

One wish has come true for 9-year-old Ashley O'Rear: she's coming home from the hospital.

After two operations in 11 days at Children's Medical Center in Dallas, Paul O'Rear said late Wednesday he expects to return his daughter to Waxahachie sometime today.

"Yesterday we finally got to talk with the oncologists to lay everything out on the table and talk about the future," he said. "First, the official report on the bone marrow showed no presence of cancer cells.

"With no cancer cells present in the spinal fluid or the bone marrow, all we have left to worry about is the small amount of tumor which remains in Ashley's head, and the spots which showed up on the original spinal MRI."

Paul said the oncologists strongly believe these spots represent the presence of small tumors in that localized area.

Ashley, a student at T.C. Wilemon Elementary, was diagnosed almost two weeks ago with a brain tumor. She underwent surgery early last week, with doctors able to remove about 95 percent of the tumor. The remaining portion of the tumor remains in her head, attached to the brain stem.

After Ashley's porta-cath surgery Tuesday, doctors tested her bone marrow for the presence of cancer cells. According to Paul, they had originally intended to do a spinal tap, in order to test for cancer cells in the spinal fluid. However, upon looking at Ashley's record, they found that spinal fluid had been drawn during her original surgery the previous week. They then reviewed that laboratory report, which showed no presence of cancer cells.

"The other information we received Wednesday, which overwhelmed us because we weren't really prepared for it, was the plan of treatment which the oncology team has laid out for Ashley," Paul said.

  On Monday or Tuesday, he said, Ashley is expected to begin a six-week radiation regimen, requiring her to travel to Dallas each day of the week for about a 60- to 90-minute radiation treatment. The radiation will target the tumor area in the brain, and the area on the spine where the spots showed up on the original MRI, he said. In conjunction with her six weeks of radiation, Ashley will begin her first set of chemotherapy treatments.

"After the radiation treatments have been completed, we will begin a one-year schedule of chemotherapy, introducing four different powerful drugs into Ashley's body on an intermittent basis, to fight off any remaining cancer cells," said Paul.

"During this time, Ashley will lose all of her beautiful blonde hair, and will probably experience extensive nausea and vomiting from time to time."

He added that other side effects, with varying degrees of severity, are possible. Ashley will be required to be hospitalized for five days every six weeks while receiving one of the drugs, "because she has to be monitored very closely while receiving that particular drug."

Throughout all of this, Ashley and her family -- Paul, mother Susan, and brother Justin, 7 -- have kept their spirits high and have a positive outlook.

"I had no idea that the treatments would be this intense or would cover this long a period of time," said Paul. "Susan and I are somewhat overwhelmed at the scope of the journey on which little Ashley is about to embark. I would trade places with her in a heartbeat, if I could. But I can't.

"We will have to stand by and watch our child suffer. We will have to keep reminding ourselves that this is what is best for her in the long-run, and that we are doing the right thing."

A fund has been set up at Citizens National Bank in Waxahachie entitled the "Ashley O'Rear Medical Fund." Donations for Ashley and her family can also be made at College Street Church of Christ, 423 N. College, Waxahachie, TX, 75165 (note "for Ashley O'Rear Medical Fund").

NOTE: This article is reprinted here with permission of the Waxahachie Daily Light.