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Childhood Cancer Survivor Faces A New Concern During COVID-19 Pandemic

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DES MOINES, Iowa – A Des Moines childhood cancer survivor now faces another medical scare, right in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Alice Geber was diagnosed with high risk neuroblastoma just a month after turning three. A couple weeks ago she had a follow up CT and doctors discovered a large lymph node near where her primary tumor was located.

Her mom Kristin Geber said, “So, we went to Mayo to have this removed and biopsied, and we were supposed to meet with the surgeon on Monday, and when we went to the surgeon’s office, they informed us that all surgeries were canceled, and so we came home because they couldn’t operate on her lymph node.”

Geber said that means they have to wait to figure out if her cancer has returned. “The thing with neuroblastoma is, it’s very aggressive, especially if it’s a relapse and so by waiting and delaying and finding out what’s going on, we’re putting her at risk of it spreading.”

Geber said it’s been very stressful. “When they told me it was canceled, I started crying. I didn’t know what else to do. We’ve been worried about this lymph node, we’ve been worried about if it’s back or not, and to find out we’re not going to be able to figure that out for a while, it was heartbreaking,” she said.

For now, they’ll wait, and work with their oncologist at Blank Children’s Hospital to see what they can do to determine if Alice has relapsed. “It’s important to figure out what’s going on in her body, so if she has relapsed we can begin treatment immediately. The longer we wait, the bigger chance that her cancer has spread and the harder it is going to be to fight it. With neuroblastoma, once you relapse, there’s basically a 20 percent survival rate. So, the sooner we can figure this out and treat it, if it is a relapse, the better off we’ll be.”

The Geber family has a message for people during the global coronavirus pandemic.

“There’s still a lot of people out that think this is being kind of blown out of proportion, and it’s not really an urgent matter, but if I look at the heads of Mayo Clinic, one of the top hospitals in the country, and if they’re saying they need to stop surgeries and procedures for kids like Alice and other kids, then I think this is something we should all stay home, help flatten the curve, so we can get back to being able to take care of people who need medical care.”

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