At the age of 11, Ana was diagnosed with a rare, malignant tumor called inflammatory myofibroblastic tumor (IMT) which presented in her portal vein and spread to her liver. IMT is slow growing and generally unresponsive to chemotherapy and radiation. The only known treatment for this type of tumor is surgery. In most cases, removal of the tumor is considered a cure. Ana had a liver transplant on February 5, 2013 and recovered beautifully. However, in September of 2013, a follow-up MRI revealed new lesions in her abdomen near her transplanted liver as well as in her lungs.
At that point, Ana began treatment with Dr. Yamashiro at Columbia Presbyterian. She started oral chemotherapy (it turned her hair white, as you can see if you look at her roots in this photo) which helped slow, but not stop, her cancer progression. Throughout the next couple of years Ana had several surgeries, targeted radiation for her lung tumors, and tried multiple targeted oral chemotherapy drugs. Her cancer continued to slowly progress, but she was able to live a very full life since her transplant. She started high school, learned to play the guitar, traveled, made new and very dear friends, and was a straight A student. Yes, she was often in pain and had much anguish–knowing her time was short–but she lived every day as fully as she could.
In June 2016, after multiple failed treatments and continued progression of her disease, she started hospice. Even so, she continued to live a full life going to school, playing music, and hanging out with her friends. Ana was out at a party four days before she died peacefully, at home, on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 at the age of 15. She died the way she wanted to–away from the hospital, in her own room, near her beloved dog, and with autonomy until the very last day of her life. We are so blessed to have had the honor of having Ana in our lives. Memorial information is posted here. Thank you, all.