Meet Lydia Mertin

Loreli and her daughter Lydia drive more than 100 miles from their home every couple of months for appointments at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. While the road trips may seem long, Loreli is grateful to make the trip knowing a few years ago it was unclear if Lydia would see her next birthday.

In December 2014, 12-year-old Lydia was diagnosed with a sinus infection; yet the medicine she was taking didn’t make her feel better. Her mother noticed Lydia didn’t seem like herself. After several follow-up appointments, a CT scan discovered a tumor on the left frontal lobe of Lydia’s brain.

Lydia and Loreli were rushed to Arkansas Children’s Hospital by an Angel One ambulance.

“From the moment we stepped into the ambulance, the Arkansas Children’s team was wonderful to us,” said Loreli. “One physician asked Lydia to smile--it looked like she’d a stroke. The tumor was effecting the left side of her body and she was immediately admitted intp the ICU.”

The tumor began to affect her speech and motor skills. The Arkansas Children’s team had to act quickly.

The Arkansas Children’s dental team removed her braces, then Lydia received an MRI confirmed that surgery was needed to remove the tumor.

“Right before the surgery Lydia wasn’t speaking at all,” says Loreli. “She couldn’t find the words. We laughed for hours before her surgery. We wanted to hear her laugh in case we didn’t see her again.”

Lydia underwent an eight-hour procedure to remove the tumor. Physicians confirmed Lydia had a rare, aggressive cancer called supratentorial primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET).

All in all, Lydia received 30 radiation treatments, six weeks of chemo infusions an additional eight rounds that consisted of four days of inpatient chemo treatments.

“When we were in the hospital she learned to knit and crochet,” says Loreli. “She made hats for NICU babies. She’s shy, quiet, really sweet and more grown up than most kids her age because of what she’s gone through. She said once that cancer was the worst and best thing that had ever happened to her. Otherwise, she said she would not have met her doctors and nurses and she LOVES them.”
Now a 15-year-old sophomore, Lydia is thriving. She’s an accomplished student, a member of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, a youth group and is the manager for her high school cheerleading team. She requires physical therapy, vision therapy and has follow up appointments at ACH every four months, yet she takes every day in stride.

Lydia has made life-long friends with kids just like her who are battling cancer in the ACH Hematology/Oncology unit. From girls’ nights to Nerf gun fights in the halls, childhood doesn’t stop for cancer. “You would think the oncology unit was the saddest place in the world, but we had a ball.”

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