Cancer affects all
Girl cured after brush with death
by Glen Korstrom
NNSL (Apr 10/98) - Unlucky enough to be born with a rare form of kidney cancer, Yellowknifer Emily Bruser was just seven years old when the condition was diagnosed.
"My stomach was hard to touch," the 15-year-old Sir John student said. "My appetite was about the same but I wasn't very happy."
She had just moved with her family to Inuvik from Yellowknife. When she went to the doctor with a swollen abdomen, the visiting pediatrician saw her situation was serious enough to send her to Vancouver for treatment.
A biopsy at Vancouver Children's Hospital determined she had a football-sized tumor attached to her kidney growing a few centimetres from her heart.
Fears the tumor was a fatal cancer of the sympathetic nervous symptom, neuroblastoma, subsided when a doctor confirmed Emily had Wilm's tumor, a more treatable form of cancer with a still-serious 70 per cent survival rate.
Between 1989 and 1993, when statistics are last available, 18 Canadian children died of Wilm's tumor, accounting for about two per cent of all children's cancer deaths.
"I guess I was really scared," Emily said as she took off her knapsack at the Yellowknife Public Library. "Sometimes I thought I was going to die."
Still, she said, she was too young to fully appreciate all that was happening.
"I felt dreadful," her mother, Deborah Bruser, said. "I felt great despair and sadness. Why hadn't I spotted something? It disrupts the whole natural order of things. You don't expect your children to die before you."
Now Emily plays soccer in the Aurora soccer league, volunteers at the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool and has finished her bronze cross.
Though recently declared cured, she will likely still go to Vancouver for radiation treatments, just to be safe.
Approximately 837 children aged 14 and younger are diagnosed with various cancers each year in Canada. About 200 will die from their disease.
Leukemia accounts for about a third of new cases and the same share of deaths.
After leukemia, the second most common childhood cancer is of the brain and spinal cord, accounting for 21 per cent of new cases and 27 per cent of deaths.
Lymphomas account for almost 12 per cent of new cases and six per cent of deaths.