If the big brown eyes don’t melt your heart, then the sweet, bright smile certainly will. Those are the first things you notice about Lilianna Thompson, a walking, talking, giggling miracle.
Lilianna was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, in August 2011, just after she turned 2 in May. While on a family trip to the beach, the toddler became ill with symptoms that mimicked a strep infection. Her parents, Randy and Anna, cut their trip short and Anna took Lilianna to her regular pediatrician who ran blood work on the sick little girl – twice. “They thought their machine was broken because the numbers were so high,” Anna said.
They were immediately referred to Children’s of Alabama where Lilianna was admitted on a Friday. She began treatment the next Monday. The chemo failed to put her into remission, though, so she was placed on the bone marrow transplantation list. In December, she underwent a cord blood transplant, but Lilianna’s little body rejected it, so she was given more chemotherapy and underwent a procedure called a double cord blood transplant in February 2012. It was successful and she was discharged from the hospital a month later. She relapsed the next day. “After that, they gave us no hope,” Anna said, “but we refused to give up hope.”
So a new chemotherapy was tried and Lilianna went into remission immediately. She relapsed six months later but that short remission still allowed time to find a bone marrow donor that matched nine of the 10 criteria for transplant. Not an ideal match, but it was the best that could be found. “It was ‘take it or leave it,’” Anna said.
They took it and Lilianna underwent more chemotherapy and total body radiation before receiving her third transplant in January 2013. “And from there, here we are!” Anna said. “She is definitely a miracle. There’s no doubt about it.”
Lilianna’s frequent clinic visits have dwindled to twice-yearly checkups and her first visit to the Taking on Life after Cancer, or TLC, Clinic. There, she will be monitored for any late complications of her therapy, such as growth problems, infertility, learning difficulties, or second cancers. The goal of the TLC Clinic is to support survivors like Lilianna as they thrive and grow so they can live their best lives possible. “Lilianna inspires all of us and her story gives hope to many families affected by childhood cancer,” said Kimberly Whelan, M.D., who serves as director of the TLC Clinic.