Always finding the positive

When six-year-old Mia kept getting sick—even as no one around her was ill—her mom, Shauna, started making appointments. “I took her to five different doctors and they all concluded that she must be constipated,” Shauna remembered. But her mother’s intuition was kicking in hard. “Something in me told me it wasn’t right.”

Mia began waking up with severe headaches. Early one Saturday morning, she was in so much pain that Shauna took her to Connecticut Children’s Emergency Department. A few days later, on June 28, they returned for an MRI. “That’s when they told us she had a tumor in her brain,” Shauna said. “Right away, Dr. Martin [Connecticut Children’s neurosurgeon Jonathan Martin, MD] came from his house to explain what was happening and what was going to happen for the future.”

Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy

The future happened quickly. On July 1, Mia went into surgery, where Dr. Martin was able to remove nearly all of the tumor. The pathology results confirmed everyone’s worst fears: the tumor was cancerous. For tumors like Mia’s, the treatment protocol was 30 rounds of full brain and spine radiation, followed by nine rounds of chemotherapy under the guidance of Connecticut Children’s neuro-oncologist Evan Cantor, MD. The months ahead were going to be rough. 

Powering through with a maturity beyond her years

When her hair began to fall out during radiation therapy, she asked her mom to take her to the salon across the street from the hospital to get her head shaved. “She’s been through a lot,” said Shauna, “but she’s always so positive. I feel bad because sometimes I get so upset, and she just always finds the positive in everything she’s been through.”

Now eight years old and in third grade, Mia loves art—especially painting and ceramics. She likes to make art-themed gifts for her many friends at school and in her neighborhood. She and her teachers have put in extra time to keep her math and reading progress on track. She even asked for extra math homework to help her pass the time during her treatment.

She continues to see many specialties at Connecticut Children’s, including neuro-oncology, endocrinology, urology, nephrology, neuropsychology, ophthalmology and physical therapy. Her care journey is still complex, but Mia will travel it with grace and positivity.