Cares for Kids: Miracle Kid Arianna Stewart
Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - Since birth, Arianna Stewart had a small lump on her belly that always worried her parents.
"We questioned it and questioned it," said Brandon Stewart, Arianna's father. "[We] asked our pediatrician what it was, asked other doctors, and kept getting the same answer that it was a herniated muscle and that it would go away, but it never went away."
After six months, Arianna's mother Vanessa Stewart demanded a more in-depth exam.
"At six months at her checkup, I told them I wasn't leaving until they sent us to Strong [Memorial Hospital], or made an appointment and gave us a referral for an ultrasound because we wanted some answers."
Maybe it was motherly intuition, parental intuition, because that ultrasound would be the first step in saving Arianna's life.
It showed the lump of belly fat was just that. But it also revealed, something there was no evidence of - a large tumor was growing on Arianna's liver.
It was Hepatoblastoma, a rare tumor accounting for just one percent of pediatric cancer diagnoses.
"It was a very, very quick lesson what matters in life," said Vanessa. "It was basically a blessing because by the time they found the tumor it took up three-fourths of her liver, there was no evidence. She was happy, healthy, as far as we can tell, a normal newborn."
For the next six months, Arianna would undergo extensive treatment at Golisano Children's Hospital.
"She looked fine, she acted fine, there was just nothing wrong, and yet we knew based on this initial ultrasound we got that there was just a monster lurking in there," said Dr. David Korones, Pediatric Oncologist at Golisano Children's Hospital.
Korones was part of the team of doctors and nurses who would treat and care for Arianna, and her family.
"She got several different types of chemo each with different sets of side effects and she would have to come into the hospital for about three days every time to get that chemo, every three weeks," said Dr. Koronas. "She also invariably would come back in a week or two to be hospitalized again with a complication to the chemo."
"They helped Arianna physically and medically, but they helped me emotionally and they helped Layla feel safe and happy at the hospital," said Vanessa. "The hospital is not a happy place, but somehow the staff at Golisano they know, they have that special touch to make you feel safe and happy, so I can't say enough about Golisano."
Surgery eventually removed the tumor on Arianna's liver and after a few more chemo treatments she rang "The End of Chemo Bell". That was in 2016.
"I still have a hard time not being there," said Vanessa. "It became my second home, it was a place that can relate to me, it was a place that not just took care of Ari they took care of [Ari's older sister] Layla, they're the only ones that understood our journey, they're the only ones that spoke our language. Everyone else just kind of looked at us confused and didn't know how to talk to us."
Today, Arianna is two years old and still cancer free.
"Right now, the party is just living every day to the fullest," said Vanessa. "I just want them to grow up happy and healthy and be who they want to be."
To support patients like Vanessa and the new improvements at the hospital, donate here. Join us Thursday as we join our radio partners Mix 100.5 and WHAM1180 for the Cares For Kids Radiothon for Golisano Children's Hospital.