A toddler from Ohio named Grace Rosian just celebrated her second birthday at home after fighting two different types of cancer since birth.

By Maressa Brown

November 27, 2018

A L.O.'s second birthday is always cause for celebration. But for a baby girl from Ohio named Grace, the family gathering was especially heartwarming—and headline-making—because the toddler has fought cancer not once but twice already in her short life. On her first birthday, she was in the midst of her second battle, so her second birthday was the first she was able to celebrate at home.

Her mother, Valerie Revell-Rosian told the Cleveland Clinic's Newsroom website, “With everything Grace has been through, she’s always been a happy baby. I’m amazed to see how strong she’s getting and far she’s come along."

The medical challenges began as soon as Grace was born. The Cleveland Clinic explains that when her parents welcomed her two months early in October 2016, she was born with Down syndrome and diagnosed with transient myeloproliferative disorder (TMD), a form of leukemia common in babies with Down syndrome. Two days after her diagnosis, she went through her first round of chemotherapy. Surrounded by her family, she spent those first two months of life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital.

After fighting TMD, Grace faced yet another battle in August 2017. The then-10-month-old was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a more serious cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Seth Rotz, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Children’s who has treated Grace, noted that children born with Down syndrome bear a higher risk of later contracting AML.

“Although AML is a curable form of leukemia for kids with Down syndrome, their bodies are extremely sensitive to chemotherapy,” explained Dr. Rotz. “Grace was at such a risk for severe infections that she had to stay hospitalized throughout her treatment.”

Her case was made even more complicated by the fact that the cancer was found in her spinal fluid, which is reportedly extremely rare. This meant the little girl required 10 spinal tap procedures, in which the chemo was administered directly into the spinal fluid. (More commonly, children fighting AML require two.)

“Even when her body was battered by infection or the effects of chemo, Grace took the treatments like a champ," Dr. Rotz explained in the Cleveland Clinic feature. “All the nurses and everybody here just loved her.”

Nonetheless, contending with a heartbreaking situation like Grace's can take a toll on a family. But Revell-Rosian said Grace and her entire family was treated with complete compassion. "I don’t think there was a time when somebody came into her room that they didn’t also acknowledge my son,” she shared. “And they never left without asking if there is anything they could do for us. Little things like that make a huge difference when you’re stuck living in a hospital."

Thankfully, those days are over. The family has returned to their home in Strongsville, Ohio, and Revell-Rosian shared with the Clinic that Grace is becoming increasingly capable of eating and drinking more on her own. She's also learning sign language. 

Revell-Rosian shared her vision for Grace's future: "As she continues growing, my hope is for her to find independence and confidence to know she can do anything she puts her mind to." Given how strong, resilient, and upbeat the toddler has proven herself to be, it seems as though this proud mom's wish is already coming true.

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