SickKids Caitlin

By Brian Kondo

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

SickKids Caitlin

This is Caitlin’s story, who has been diagnosed with three different cancers since the age of nine.

Three days before her 10th birthday, Caitlin's parents learned their young daughter had colon cancer. Colorectal cancers are nearly unheard of in children, with only three cases in every 15 million kids.

“They kept it from me because they didn’t want to ruin my birthday,” said Caitlin, now 18, of Woodstock, Ontario. Several days later, Caitlin underwent surgery to remove her large intestines. After six months of a modified chemotherapy regimen, she was able to return to school.

Caitlin’s cancer journey was far from over. Two short years later, her cancer had returned—only this time, it was in her pancreas. Over the next 18 months, Caitlin underwent a different chemotherapy treatment program, as well as several additional surgeries to remove parts of multiple organs. Initially, her treatment plan seemed to be working—but over time, Caitlin got sicker. Her medical team then found the cancer had returned for a third time, now appearing on her cervix. Caitlin’s extreme cancer experiences led doctors to believe that she had a very rare cancer syndrome, which made her body resistant to cancer treatments available at the time.

“After the third diagnosis, we were pretty much told that there’s no way chemo would be working again,” said Caitlin’s father. “When we heard that, we knew this could be the end.”

Then, Caitlin’s doctors brought her case to the doctors at SickKids in Toronto, and her medical team found a clinical trial supported by Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C). This offered Caitlin’s family a glimmer of hope, but Caitlin, who had spent years in a hospital, was skeptical.

“I wanted to give up right before I started this trial, and sort of into the first couple months of it,” said Caitlin. “I didn’t really see a point in doing it.”

Three months into the clinical trial, an MRI found Caitlin’s tumor had shrunk—and Caitlin started to believe that maybe her treatment was worth it. She underwent surgery yet again, and continued treatment every other week until she reached the two-year mark. As her treatment proved successful, Caitlin could picture prom and graduation with her friends, and more things to look forward to.

Today, Caitlin continues to be monitored and has no evidence of disease. She has graduated from high school cancer-free and is pursuing her dream of becoming a dairy farmer in her hometown of Woodstock. The researchers who conducted the clinical trial that saved Caitlin have received additional funding from Stand Up To Cancer to advance the next phase of studies testing promising therapies in children with hyper mutant cancers.


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