Skip to content

Six-year-old Caroline stepped up to the pole festooned with yellow, orange, and pink streamers and grabbed the rope attached to a very special golden bell.

As she pulled the cord and the bell clanged, her friends and family cheered. Caroline’s mom, Shayna, and dad, Chris, grinned from ear to ear. This was an important milestone for their kindergartener. Months earlier, what had started out as a trip to urgent care for a possible broken bone had turned into a fight against cancer.

In August 2020, Caroline told her parents her arm hurt. Eventually she stopped using it.

“When we took her to urgent care, then an orthopedic surgeon, we assumed it might be a fracture,” says Shayna. “We were picking out cast colors and asking her if she liked pink or purple.”

Then doctors at Valley Children’s Hospital, near the family’s home in Clovis, broke the news: there was a tumor, and it was aggressively attacking Caroline’s bone. The family wondered how they could save her arm.

“We called doctors all across the country. We were told that Caroline’s best option was to undergo surgery at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, just three hours from our home,” says Shayna. “Dr. Avedian dealt with me crying over Zoom calls and my husband asking all the questions. Dr. Spunt was very hands-on and so supportive. She was absolutely instrumental at providing a second opinion.”

A course of action

Orthopedist Raffi Avedian, MD, and oncologist Sheri Spunt, MD, MBA, often work closely with the team at Valley Children’s and agreed with the diagnosis that Caroline had osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer very rarely found in kids Caroline’s age.

The plan was a collaboration between the two hospitals, with chemotherapy treatments at Valley Children’s and surgery at Packard Children’s to remove the tumor and save Caroline’s arm. Her arm would have an expandable prosthesis—it would not grow to full-length nor have full mobility.

Help from friends—human and canine

Caroline had her best friend, a stuffed puppy, with her every step of the way. But before surgery, when there was a mention of a needle, Caroline was inconsolable. It was time for a real dog to take over!

“Donatella, Packard Children’s surgery center facility dog, came and totally calmed her down when no one else could. She saved the morning,” Shayna recalls. Her family was grateful for the extra support. Without donors like you, Donatella’s visit would not have been possible.

Caroline’s family focused on one day at a time. When they felt like it was all too much to bear, our community held them up.

“To be able to help others in times of need, whether financially or emotionally, every little thing matters. Having lived through it, I can really feel the impact it makes,” Shayna says. “Every dollar donated to the hospital makes a difference in patients’ lives. Everything from child life specialists to comfortable beds for the parents. We will forever be grateful.”

Caroline’s surgery was a success! And this spring, just after she turned 6, she rang the golden bell signifying her final chemo treatment and bright future.

Thank you for your support of the Children’s Fund and patients like Caroline. Because of you, Caroline is dancing, playing tennis, and looking forward to starting first grade.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of the Children’s Fund Update.

Helping Children Thrive

See all

A cancer diagnosis is a universally devastating event, but for those on the brink of adulthood, the challenges can be especially profound. As Vivek Chotai,...

Over the years, Zenaida spent months in our hospital receiving treatment for neuroblastoma. Her family credits her music therapists, child life specialists, chaplains, and so...

It was a hot August day in Morelia, Mexico, when Anahi’s world turned upside down. Her then-3-year-old son, Julian, was diagnosed with hepatoblastoma, a rare...