Most of us remember that feeling of intense love when their baby was first placed in their arms just after being born. They seem so perfect and miraculous. The majority of parents get to bask in the healthy glow of their child and watch them grow and reach milestones as expected. Did you know that an infant can be born with cancer? That was the situation that the Nordsven family of Bismarck faced when their daughter, Jillian, was diagnosed with bilateral retinoblastoma in February of 2013, at just two months old. Doctors told the Nordsvens that Jillian’s cancer had developed in utero for quite a while before she was born.
Jillian endured three years of treatment and was stable for a period of time until her cancer came back. She then went through another year of treatment and is now stable. Due to the experimental treatments that Jillian had at such a young age, there isn’t a significant amount of clarity for future implications of treatment or reoccurrence. She is monitored annually for the next few years until she is 13, at which point additional monitoring will be necessary for secondary cancers.
Jillian is blind in one eye as a result of tumors with vitreous seeding and retinal detachment. Along with that comes challenges of depth perception, additional daily hazards, and feeling as though she looks different than other kids. At times, she can appear to have a lazy eye. Though the tumors have been laser treated to make them smaller, she still has a cat-eye like “glow” from the remaining unremovable ones, that often shows up in pictures.
Overall, Jillian is doing well. She is healthy, happy, outgoing and very adventurous. She continues to doctor in New York City, and has developed a strong love for traveling. She has been to New York 40 times in the past seven years and much to her disappointment, she only travels there once a year now. During active treatment she was going every four weeks. It is her favorite place because that is where she “got healthy;” but she also mentioned the exceptional pizza and large American Girl Doll store. When Jillian grows up she wants to be an artist or a veterinarian. And she’ll most likely succeed at this in New York City, of all places.