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'My 10-Year-Old Has Breast Cancer'

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Carrie Auslam never thought this could happen ... until it happened to her child.

Hannah

A few weeks ago, we told you about Hannah, the 10-year-old girl diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. Now her mother, Carrie Auslam, talks to momlogic about her daughter's struggle, strength, and hope for the future.

momlogic: The nation has embraced Hannah for her spirit and strength. As Hannah's mom, how do you stay so strong for her and yourself?

Carrie Auslam:
To be honest, Hannah keeps me strong. She is my shining spirit, she really is. I am not going to say I don't take credit for raising her the way she's been raised, but she helps me get through every day. Every morning we sit and talk about how she's feeling, and what this day is going to bring for her, and she says, "It's not too much longer until I am going to be strong and healthy again."

momlogic: Although this diagnosis is rare among children of Hannah's age, it could happen to anyone.... What advice can you share with other moms and dads?

Carrie Auslam: The word we want to spread is to have your child talk to you, and talk to your child. Hannah didn't talk to me, I found it by sheer accident. We came home from one of her softball games, which is her passion. She complained about her nipple itching. Finally, I insisted on going into the bathroom to look at it. It was red from her scratching, and when I grabbed her breast, I found the lump in the lower part. She looked completely normal -- to look at her, you wouldn't know something was wrong. I thought it was just a cyst. She had a cyst on her eye when she was about 5, so I thought it was not a big deal. I just thought we'd check it out with the doctor and it wouldn't be anything serious. Obviously, it turned into way much more.

momlogic: As parents, what is your reaction to the media attention and support your family has received?

Carrie Auslam: Honestly, we really appreciate it, but we are also burned out. At this point, I am ready to take a step back. I want to get the word out, but we need to also get our family back to where it used to be. We need some downtime. I didn't expect the flood of attention at all. My main focus is getting my daughter healthy.

momlogic: Medically, what's next for Hannah?

Carrie AuslamShe has three more rounds of chemo to go through. On Monday, we had a hat party for her. There were about 50-70 people who brought hats and scarves. Hannah shaved her head because her scalp was tingling, a sign she's losing her hair. She goes once every 3 weeks for chemo. We learned after her mastectomy that the cancer spread to her lymph node. Now, we are in controversy over whether she should do radiation, surgery, or let her be? And I also have a 2-year-old son.

momlogic: How do you balance caring for Hannah and raising your 2-year-old?

Carrie Auslam: It's tough, it's hard. We're trying to keep him in his regimen and routine. We are very routine people. He still goes to his sitter Monday-Friday from 8 AM-5 PM, which gives me time to take care of Hannah, and take her to doctor's appointments. We try to have a normal life after 5 PM when everyone is home together. My husband is still working at this point, or trying to work. He does come to Hannah's doctor's appointments.

momlogic: In the spirit of spreading education and awareness, what is your message?

Carrie Auslam: Again, our main message is to talk to your kids and have them talk to you. The doctors ultimately believe Hannah had the tumor in her breast for several months. They can't give a timeline because she's a kid. She thought it was part of growing up. If kids feel abnormal or different, they need to talk to their parents to know everything is okay. Hannah is a big girl. She's 140 pounds, and 5' 4". Because of her size, she started developing earlier than a normal 10-year-old. With that, she's thinking what she felt was all a part of growing up. She told me after I found the lump that she's rolled over on it at night in bed and it bothered her, but she thought it was part of her boobies, and it was no big deal. Open communication is key.

momlogic: If people want to lend their support to Hannah and your family, how can they do so?

Carrie AuslamWe have a website at www.ourlittlesweetpea.com. People can log on and send messages to Hannah, which she checks and uses for support. There is also a trust fund set up. It's on a page called "Gifts for Hannah" and people can donate and it goes into a trust fund for her.

Our thoughts are with Hannah and Carrie and their family in this difficult time.

How common is breast cancer in children this young?

In the pediatric population, breast cancer is extremely uncommon. It is unusual in a young girl, and most lumps or masses that are seen will be benign (non-cancerous). Less than 0.1% of all breast cancer occurs in children.

Momlogic pediatrician Dr. Cara Natterson says, "Much more common are normal lumps in the breast. Prepubertal girls and girls in the early stages of puberty will often notice small, sometimes tender bumps under their nipples. These are called breast buds. My patients often worry because initially, breast buds tend to appear on one side only -- it can take weeks or months for the other side to develop. Many girls and their parents mistake these for cancerous lumps because they are unilateral (one-sided), but in almost all cases they represent a normal part of development."

Dr. Natterson continues: "Breast cancers may stretch the skin in an unusual way or cause discharge from the nipple. If your daughter has nipple discharge or unusually pulled or stretched skin on the breast, you should have a doctor take a look."

Dr. Natterson says she is a big fan of self breast exams -- but not to diagnose breast cancers in young girls, since these types of cancers are extremely rare among preteens and teens. "Rather, I believe that if you teach young girls the importance of doing regular self breast exams, they will get into the habit of actually performing them -- several years later, if a lump forms, a girl who does routine self breast exams is more likely to find that lump early," she concludes.


next: I Told her I'm Pregnant -- But Am I!?
5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Ashley June 4, 2009, 5:22 PM

Oh my god! Hannah is a real warrior let me tell you that! You rock Hannah! Keep your hope up!

Callista June 9, 2009, 7:33 PM

Wow that’s a scary thing to go through. I didn’t know it could affect children. It makes sense that it would be more likely to happen to bigger girls though.

Rachelle  June 10, 2009, 12:06 AM

I hope Hannah and her mom are members of Momlogic, because I feel like I was thrown back in time after reading this. Hannah Definately sounds like a very brave, strong girl, and I commend her mother for having such an open line of communication through this. I believe Hanna’s got a long, long life to live and this is something that will have just made her stronger.

When I was 14 years old, I was diagnosed with Ovarian cancer. I was also told that this is a very rare cancer for children, or Peditric patients (somewhere in the neighborhood of 1-2%).

The way mine was discovered was, I had a very painful period with cramps that had me doubled over in pain. I also thought I was constipated, because I had so much pressure in my abdomen and because when I pushed on it, it felt so hard. Solid. So I told my mom and she took me to the doctor. In my case, I was so embarassed because at first the doctors asked and asked if there was any chance I could be pregnant. I’d never even kissed a boy. Not really. Then the tests began. Then the discovery ( a tumor on one of my ovaries, not a big deal really, blah, blah, blah), then the operation. The surgeons came out of the O.R. Half way through my surgery to give my parents a decision to make on the spot. Once they had me open and could see the tumor with their own eyes, they saw that it had totally enveloped one ovary, and was just touching the other. It had also matasticized to the abdominal wall. My parents had to decide whether or not the doctors should do a complete hystorectomy, or remove as much of the tumor as possible and save the rest of the reproductive organs so that i could get pregnant or at least still carry a baby one day. My parents opted for the hystorectomy. The surgeons also removed my abdominal wall. At the time, when i found out they had a choice, i was a little angry, but now, as a mother myself, i completely understand their decision. The surgeons said if they’d opted for the second choice, we probably would have been back within six months for another surgery. If i was left with a choice like that to make , you better believe, i’m going to choose whatever gives my child the best chance of survival. When it was over, we found out the cancer was stage II, & the name of the tumor is what is known as a teratoma. Meaning? It literally means Monster tumor. Not necessarily for it’s size, as far as i know, but because it actually has tufts of hair, and calcium deposits (teeth). It sort of inherits some of the aspects of an infant in utero. But it IS a cancer, not a baby. I actually wondered at that age if my tumor had been the beginnings of a baby. I was uneducated, and confused about what was going on inside me. I knew what can cer was, but cancer where babies are made, and born? Unfortunately, my family wasn’t as open to talking about what was happening. So i was left to contemplate, wonder, and find my own way through this mess that was my illness. It took many years and a great man (and a beautiful baby boy) to help me come to terms with it once and for all. My husband Aaron, and I brought our son home at six weeks old. His adoption was finalized at 6 months. In July he will be three years old. I can honestly say, with all my heart that everything that I went through was meant to happen, was put into place by God, just to prepare me for when my son would be born and need his forever mommy. He paved the road, and even though it was very hard at times, and I very often asked why, it only took 19 years for me to understand and see what His plan had been all along. I can not imagine my life without my son. He was the gift that God provided so long ago when I myself was a child. If only I could have seen my future, my sons face, something! Man, that would have made everything so much easier!!

Rhonda Zweber June 13, 2009, 10:10 PM

I am a breast cancer survivor and I want to share with you how important it is to stay positive and have faith. A joke or two also helps! If Hannah has a bad day, encourage her to think that tomorrow will be better. I have written a book about my 5 year old daughter’s point of view throughout my treatment. It may help Hannah and her friends understand a little better what to expect. The book is called Mommy’s Hats. My hope is to help families cope with cancer and have hope that life still can be great! Good luck and I hope to keep up with Hannah’s journey!

andrea November 24, 2009, 4:26 PM

hannah its ok you will survive in our hearts and in real life they will give you treatment you will survive cause your an angel and a warrior!you rock!
we love you


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