Piecing Together a Puzzle
The next morning, on December 20, 2017, Ava’s parents received a phone call that would start a three-year journey for their family. Halfway through her freshman year of high school, Ava was called out of class. Her parents picked her up and drove directly to Connecticut Children’s.
Just a 20-minute drive from her hometown, Ava recalls, “It was the longest car ride of my life.” She knew something was wrong, as her family sat in silence for the entire ride. When they reached the hospital, they took the elevator up to the 5th floor and entered the Center for Cancer & Blood Disorders for the first time. While sitting in the waiting area, Ava saw three nearly-bald toddlers, with a couple random sprouts of hair on their little heads, playing together on the floor. She remembers thinking, ‘These poor little kids have cancer—how sad.’ But Ava had not connected their diagnosis to her own condition.
Ava and her parents, Giulia and Jamie, were escorted into a family conference room to meet with oncologist Natasha Frederick, MD, along with one of the Center’s social workers. After reviewing Ava’s MRI results and bloodwork, Dr. Frederick shared the diagnosis with the family: Ava had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a rapidly spreading blood cancer.
Time seemed to stop in that moment, as Ava didn’t know how to process what she just heard. Jamie, who Ava describes as a tough outdoorsman, leaned over to his baby girl and said, “I’m so sorry kid,” as tears welled in his eyes.