Brianna’s Battle

BRIANNA’S BATTLE: Brave 3-year-old continues fight against rare cancer By Jim Kehl, The Aurora Sentinel

A 3-year-old girl in a life-or-death struggle with a rare soft-tissue cancer is fighting hard, and possibly winning a current battle against the disease, according to the girl’s mother.

Brianna Roberts’ struggle touched Aurora police officer Jim Seneca, a cancer survivor himself. He embarked on a two-month effort to raise money for her family.

After an Aug. 25 MRI scan, no tumors were found in Brianna’s body; but she’s not out of the woods yet, according to her mother, Tammi Roberts. “We just hope it stays that way,” Tammi said. After six hour-long chemotherapy treatments this summer, Brianna still has five more months to go. Her mother said she’s handling it well. “It’s not affecting her too much,” Tammi said. “She handles everything so well that it doesn’t stop her from doing anything.”

Brianna recently received her doctor’s permission to start swimming lessons, something she’s wanted to do for a long time, her mother said.

Seneca said about 250 people showed up to the Aug. 3 fundraiser he organized. Although the crowd was much smaller than he had hoped, he still views it as a success. The event generated about$13,000, much of which went to Brianna’s family.

“I still keep in touch with Brianna,” Seneca said. “I’ll still support them emotionally until they get through with this thing.”

Her mother said they thought Brianna was cancer-free for about 16 months until it reemerged in January. In April, Brianna went back to the hospital for major surgery to remove her uterus, urethra and part of her bladder. She now has a catheter through her navel.

“She always tells people to be careful with her when they pick her up,” Tammi said.

Recently, the whole family traveled to California so Brianna could undergo high-power radiation therapy. Seneca arranged for free passes to Disneyland for them while they were there.

Doctors say Brianna still has only a 50 percent chance of surviving, according to Tammi. “We just go with the flow, do what we have to do and hope it works,” she said. “We’re still hoping for that miracle, because that’s what it’s going to take.”

For most of her life, Brianna has suffered with Rhabdomysarcoma, a rare cancer that affects about 350 children in America each year. She has undergone intensive chemotherapy and radiation treatments to treat the disease. In April, she had her uterus, urethra and part of her bladder removed during major surgery.

Seneca’s organization, Cops Fighting Cancer, is composed of police officers who have survived cancer. The organization supports families and children struggling with cancer treatment.

Christopher Harrop

Senior Assistant Editor

The Aurora Sentinel