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Alicia’s Story

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Alicia was six years old when her and a friend were in my living room doing cartwheels. As I watched the girls, Alicia’s little shirt stretched just above her belly. That is when I first noticed an egg size lump protruding from her left side in the sunlight. I’ll never forget that day.

I asked, “Alicia honey, come here, I want to see your side a minute. I was a volunteer EMT at the time and I knew right away this was not supposed to be there! I asked Alicia all kinds of questions: Does it hurt? What is it? How long has it been there? I don’t think she ever answered me. What is a six-year-old going to say? I think at the time I was asking the questions to myself to try and figure out the mystery.

This lump, to vividly explain it was just beneath the skin in her lower left quadrant. It literally felt like a goosh ball. I could physically squeeze it and the texture was that of a goosh ball. I immediately sent her friend home and drove to our clinic. 

Now I lived in a small town and just blocks away from our general practitioner’s office. I took Alicia in and asked Andrea the receptionist if Dr. Smith was in. She said yes, but was busy with a patient right now. I asked Andrea, “Did you ever see anything like this before?” With that said, I gently lifted Alicia’s shirt up and showed her the bulge that I was seeing. She was looking over the desk when at that moment Dr. Smith came over by Andrea to drop off a folder. She said, “Dr. Smith, what do you think this could be?” He too was looking over the desk and asked Alicia to come around the corner so he could get a better look.

While he was pushing and probing he said, “Hmmm, this could either be constipation or a bowel obstruction.” What a relief I thought! I can handle that diagnosis. It was a Wednesday that day and he told me if things didn’t improve I should call the office and make an appointment for Friday. With that said I went home. For the next couple of days I closely monitored Alicia’s habits, if you will, and she seemed like all her plumbing was just fine. She went like clockwork every day, so I personally ruled out constipation.

Now it was Friday and I called Dr. Smith for an appointment. We went in and he did another exam. Before we left he said he wanted to take an X-Ray to see if he could see where the bowel obstruction might be. The X-ray was done and he said he would call us by Monday evening with the results. On Friday night I received a call at approximately 7:10 pm. It was Dr. Smith. He said, “Nancy, there is something wrong with one of Alicia’s kidneys”. I said, “Oh my God, what, Dr. Smith? What?” He said he really didn’t know but he wanted me to go see a pediatric specialist in the next town for more tests. I said, “But tomorrow is Saturday.” He stated he was aware of this but arrangements were already made to go see this Dr. Williams. I ended that phone call feeling numb but went about my regular evening and put the kids to bed. (I had two children. Joshua was eight and Alicia was six.)

Well now, after this thought was put in my head what did Miss EMT do? I went on the internet and was typing in childhood kidney diseases. After all, he identified the organ that was having the problem so I wanted to know what to expect from this pediatrician the next day. I read well past midnight and what stuck in my mind most was something called “Wilm’s Tumor.” This was a childhood kidney cancer but I was somewhat relieved because Alicia didn’t really fit the M.O. of this disease. Mainly occurs in boys from birth to four years old, and is rare to appear beyond the age of five.

I never noticed any of the signs or symptoms as she never was ill as an infant. I nursed her and she had all her regular vaccinations. Then I thought, “But what else could this be if it’s not Wilm’s Tumor?” With that thought, I finally went to bed as I knew we were going to have a busy day Saturday. 

We got up early the next morning and left for Fort Atkinson the next day. We briefly met with Dr. Williams and I went in the exam room with her. After a brief exam he said that he wanted to do a kidney dye scan. He said this will illuminate the functioning kidney so he could get a better look at it. That is when I blurted out, “Dr. Williams? I was reading on the internet last night, could this be Wilm’s Tumor?” He gently messed up my hair a little bit and said, “Mrs. Wollinger” (at that time) You read too much!” I nervously smiled and said, “Yeah, maybe you’re right,” I do read too much! Well over an hour went by and I asked the nurse if she could please check to see where my daughter was. She went back and said they are just finishing up pictures with the kidney dye scan and they should be done soon. 

Thirty more minutes went by and we were finally called into the Dr.’s quarters. My daughter wasn’t there and I was worried. Dr. Williams said, “Alicia is fine and she is with the nurses picking out stickers.” My eyes were locked on his the entire time he spoke so I would not miss a thing of what he was about to say. He started out by saying her left kidney was not functioning. In fact it completely shut down from what he could see. He apologized for taking so long (one and a half hours) to do this test, but afterward he consulted with the University Children’s Hospital in Madison and we were to go home, pack our bags, and be up there by 3 p.m. that afternoon. I was stunned. I’m looking at him asking, “What are you saying, Dr. Williams?” What is it? Why doesn’t her kidney work? He finally said, “Mrs. Wollinger, it looks like your daughter may have Wilm’s Tumor.” “However, we won’t know for sure until a biopsy is done. I want to turn this case over to an oncologist there, just in case.” He also went onto say something about the urologist that was going to perform the biopsy there was one of the best in the country. I only remember going home and having to pack an overnight bag for Alicia, Joshua, and myself. My husband at the time was numb and deep in thought himself. We just kind of went through the motions and managed to drive up to the University Children’s Hospital which was approximately one hour from our home.

To be continued …


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