Pediatric cancer is something no parent ever wants their child to face. But imagine finding out that your baby was battling this disease before even taking his first breath. Krista and Luis Biggs understand what that feels like all too well.
Their son Ollie has been fighting cancer since before he was even born.
Their son Olexandre, or Ollie as he’s known, has been fighting cancer since before he was even born. Suspected of having a tumour on his liver while still in utero, Ollie and his parents have been fighting for his life since day one.
A routine ultrasound during Krista’s second trimester of pregnancy revealed a mass on baby Ollie’s liver. While doctors initially suspected it might be a twisted bowel, further examination showed the mass was growing. On June 8, 2015, after Krista safely delivered her beautiful baby boy, Ollie was immediately whisked away for x-rays, which confirmed the mass on his tiny liver was a malignant tumour – the size of a soda can.
After being transferred to CHEO, Ollie received a diagnosis of hepatoblastoma, a form of liver cancer needing immediate treatment. Surgically removing the tumour would be the easiest treatment, but since it was so close to one of Ollie’s major arteries, it could have disastrous consequences. Chemotherapy would be necessary to shrink the tumour so that it could eventually be removed through surgery. To add another complication, with Ollie being a newborn, his little body could only handle so much chemo. The doctors treating Ollie needed to delicately balance his chemo treatment to prevent too much trauma from occurring to his body, which could put him at risk of lifelong hearing loss and kidney problems.
Fearing for their precious baby, Krista and Luis had no choice but to take this new information in stride. “When you child’s life is in danger, everything changes,” says Krista. “You develop a new tolerance for certain types of stress. You just deal with it, because you have to be there for your child to help them fight.”
Because Ollie’s condition was so rare, CHEO turned to the world for help. With so few babies born with hepatoblastoma, doctors at CHEO consulted medical experts in Germany, Japan, the United States and several hospitals across Canada to help develop Ollie’s customized treatment plan.
But for Ollie, the outcome has been bright. After several rounds of chemo, his care team was able to shrink his tumour enough to be removed. Today, Ollie only visits CHEO for regular appointments, rather than living there.
“We’re very fortunate and thankful for all the help and support we are getting from CHEO,” says Luis. “They’ve taken just as good care of us as they have of Ollie.”
Ollie is currently in remission, but he will continue to be followed by CHEO until he is 18 years old. For Krista, Luis, Ollie and the rest of their family, it’s about taking life one day, and one test, at a time. “We live as normally as we can, and when it’s time for the next test we take a deep breath,” says Krista.