To look at Jane Anna Hawkins , you would never know what she had been through. The smiley, happy little girl—the youngest child of Simrall Pratt Hawkins and Peter Hawkins—began battling Neuroblastoma at just 2 months old.
Jane Anna's father, Peter, has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)—a thickening of the heart muscle that can interfere with blood flowing away from the heart. Since two of Jane Anna's brothers have tested positive for the HCM gene, Jane Anna's pediatrician, Jane Jones, MD, referred the family to the Cardiology Department at Children's Hospital at Erlanger when she detected a heart murmur in the baby.
"Dr. Jones wanted to get a thorough baseline workup for Jane Anna from the cardiologists," Simrall remembers. "The tumor was found on a chest X-ray in the cardiology office."
Doctors told the Hawkins family they thought the tumor was Neuroblastoma and ordered a computed tomography (CT) scan in the CT Ranch at Children's Hospital to get a better look. The Hawkins family was completely unaware at the time that the ranch was funded by Emily's Power for a Cure —an organization that would soon become very important to them.
When doctors diagnosed Jane Anna with low-risk, Stage I Neuroblastoma , Simrall's sister-in-law instantly introduced her via Facebook to her friends Wendy Ransom, President of Emily's Power for a Cure, and Mindy Sanders, whose son, Colin, had beaten Neuroblastoma several years ago.
"Words cannot describe the level of shock, fear, and sadness you initially experience when you learn your child has cancer," Simrall says. "Emily's Power for a Cure has been a tremendous help during this difficult time. It has made me feel not so powerless to this terrible disease, and it has given me strength and a voice for childhood cancer."
Jane Anna underwent surgery to remove the tumor a few months after her diagnosis. Since the cancer was so low risk, no chemo was necessary instead, the Hawkins were told that Jane Anna would only need follow-up CT scans to monitor the disease. Unfortunately, their happiness about having the tumor removed was short lived.
"Jane Anna's surgery was October 9, 2014, and our first follow-up scan post surgery was not clear," Simrall remembers. "The tumor came back in the same place, but it was bigger and pressing on the spinal cord area as well as a few liver lesions. Now, it is Stage III ."
Several months later, Jane Anna underwent chemo to shrink the tumor and the liver lesions, and she also had surgery to remove the remaining tumor. She has shown no evidence of disease since since 2015 and still has yearly scans with her doctor. Fortunately, she doesn't seem to have any side affects from her cancer treatment, but her mom often wonders if the yearly scans she gets will cause something will show up later in life. Jane Anna is currently living life as a happy seven year old who loves riding horses, gymnastics, soccer, and playing with her friends.
"Jane Anna is a warrior," says Simrall, who points out that her daughter has continued to smile throughout the entire process. "We can all learn a little something from this little fighter. I am proud to be her mom!"