"The Knitted White Dress"

In mid October 2009, Talyn and I woke up and did our daily routine of getting dressed and taking pictures before we headed off to the baby sitter. Talyn was an active two year old child and very verbal. Many would say that she had lived on this earth before. She was full of life and laughter, but something was odd this day as she stepped out of the house. I remember the day as if it were yesterday, and the way Talyn looked—like a little snow bunny!—in a white knitted dress. We never knew that this day would change our lives forever.

During the day, I received a phone call from her pediatrician. Apparently, Talyn’s recent blood work revealed her sodium levels were very low. The doctor suggested that I bring her in for further testing; if Talyn’s sodium level dropped too low, she might have a seizure. I ran home to pick Talyn up from the sitter. When I arrived, the sitter advised me that my little girl had been sleeping all day, and that this had been happening for the past few days. As we got into the car Talyn began to throw up. At that point, I knew something was really wrong.

While at the hospital, the doctors preformed many tests to figure out why Talyn’s sodium level was so low, but to no avail. We were restless and hungry and suddenly a doctor suggested a CAT scan be taken. The results of the scan turned our lives around.

That day, the doctors told me that Talyn had a mass in her brain the size of a golf ball—about 4.5 centimeters. This tumor and the fluid surrounding it was making her sleepy, as the babysitter had noted. Although Talyn was too young to really know what was going on, I sat her down and explained to her, as best I could, what was happening. She smiled and gave me the biggest hug ever (what a trooper!) as tears rolled down my face and my heart ached.

A craniotomy followed the discovery of the tumor, and the pathologist diagnosed my daughter with a low grade Astrocytoma. Fifteen months of chemotherapy followed, along with a VP shunt placement, mediport placement, VP shunt revision and weight and hair loss. But Talyn’s spirit never let these bumps in the road hinder her development. Since chemo ended in December of 2010, Talyn has been on the verge of gaining all of her weight and hair back, and she was recently enrolled in Pre-K. Talyn smiles every day and brings laughter to everyone, even though she is very aware of the many changes (and hardware) that have become a part of her.

Today, Talyn never skips a beat and is stronger and healthier than ever thanks to the doctors at Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York. We still have the knitted white dress and for some reason I can’t let it go.

Talyn R. Vankeuren is my hero!

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