On March 23, 2020, Stewi and Andy Corno took their 18-month-old daughter, Cameron, to the hospital following a week of intermittent vomiting, multiple trips to the pediatrician, and a trip to the emergency room. Following their parental instincts, knowing it was more than GI troubles, they arrived at Georgetown Hospital. A CT scan found moderate hydrocephalus and Cameron was scheduled for a full brain MRI the next morning.
On March 27, 2020, the MRI found a tumor at the back of the brain compressing the brain stem and Cameron was rushed to emergency neurosurgery to release the pressure and resect the tumor. The surgery went an unexpected 14 hours due to the vascular tumor and Cameron remained intubated until the next attempt to resect the remaining tumor. Four days later, Cameron had another neurosurgery to remove the remaining tumor, which was a huge success.
A few days later, Cameron had her third neurosurgery within just two weeks to put in a VP shunt and broviac central line. During this time, the pathology results revealed that Cameron was diagnosed with a Grade 3 Anaplastic Ependymoma, a cancer of the central nervous system.
Cameron remained in the PICU for over a month for recovery and therapies (SLP, OT, PT) where she had to relearn how to eat, drink, talk, sit and walk. Her care was overseen by Jeff Toretsky, M.D., Division Chief of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology at Georgetown, and Chair, CCF Scientific Advisory Board.
At the very time of Cameron’s diagnosis, mom, Stewi Corno, had just learned she was pregnant. This also coincided with the beginning of the pandemic, which made Cameron’s hospitalization even more complicated. COVID-19 restrictions introduced the one-parent rule, being unable to leave the room, long periods of isolation, etc. However, the Corno family was able to lean on the Georgetown hospital team and remain in close contact with many of the pediatric team members from Georgetown today.
Once it was safe for Cameron to return home, her care was transferred to Children’s National where there was greater experience with Cameron’s specific cancer type. By May 2020, the marathon of treatment began – starting with seven weeks of proton beam radiation (on her brain, with a few weeks on her spine as well) at Sibley Hospital, followed by four rounds of inpatient intensive chemotherapy.
In addition to occasional visits to the ER for various and not unexpected complications, Cameron had a shunt replacement surgery in October 2020. The hope was for the new, programmable shunt to allow for Cameron to be enrolled into a clinical trial using targeted radiation antibody treatment at Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s, but unfortunately, her hydrocephaly prevented her from being eligible to participate.
At that time, Cameron’s scans showed a metastatic, inoperable spot on her spine, so the care team called for a year of metronomic (oral) chemotherapy, starting in December 2020. This treatment required five different meds a day, two of which have to be crushed/cut up into her “special chemo smoothie”. The chemotherapy proved that the metastatic spot on her spine was not a tumor, and Cameron ended her oral chemotherapy in December 2021. On December 2nd, Cameron rang the bell at Children’s National to mark this huge benchmark and the end of 20 months of treatment!
Today, Cameron Corno, is a creative, fearless, happy kid that loves to dance, paint, swim, play doctor, bake, go to the beach, and is the sweetest big sister to Kaitlin, born November 2020. Cameron is currently in preschool and has minimal physical limitations – such as balance and ability to go up and down stairs. Cameron receives brain and spine MRI scans every three months, and the occasional Lumbar Puncture. Cameron is currently not in any therapies, but once she is one year out from treatment, she will be reevaluated on lingering delays that need to be addressed – for example, she experienced slight hearing loss during intensive rounds of chemotherapy and her height growth has significantly decreased since treatment as well.
The family sincerely appreciates the local collaboration between the pediatric oncology teams at Georgetown Hospital and Children’s National and feel fortunate that Cameron is thriving. Thanks to advances in pediatric research, a swift diagnosis, and the incredible resilience and strength of Cameron, the Corno family is incredibly grateful for her outcome.
The Corno family will be sharing their harrowing journey with our community at the CCF Symposium on June 8th, 2022.