Stephanie Felix knew exactly what she wanted for her ninth birthday: to ring the bill at Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital and signify that she was—officially!—cancer-free. When Stephanie was seven years old, her mother noticed a lump on her abdomen. Further testing found that Stephanie had a Wilms’ tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer; Wilms’ tumor may also be referred to as nephroblastoma. Stephanie began experiencing severe abdominal pain.
Her two years battling Wilms’ tumor were not easy. Her chemotherapy weakened her immune system. As a result, Stephanie contracted various viruses and often found herself sick. She spent a lot of time in the hospital, but remained resilient throughout. Even on the hardest days, her doctors and nurses remember how positive, bright, and upbeat Stephanie was.
Now, at nine years old, Stephanie is excited to get back out into the world and experience all that she can—and her family is grateful to have their daughter around for more time.
Wilms’ Tumor: An Overview
Wilms’ tumor, though rare, is the most common form of kidney cancer in children. It typically manifests unilaterally (in one kidney) though it may occur in both. Wilms’ tumor predominantly affects children aged 1-4 years old. Once over five years old, the risk falls significantly; for this reason, Stephanie’s case is considered even rarer given her age! Risk factors include being African-American, having a family history of kidney cancer, or having certain conditions such as aniridia or WAGR syndrome. Wilms’ tumor symptoms may include:
- An abdominal mass
- Abdominal pain and swelling
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
- Nausea and vomiting
- High blood pressure
- Appetite loss
- Frequent or recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Shortness of breath
Currently, surgery is the standard-of-care for Wilms’ tumor. However, other therapies may also be included in the treatment approach, such as chemotherapy or radiation.