Sept. 18, 2008 – Things are swirling fast for 3-year-old Karli Costley.
The mini-Mt. Juliet High School cheerleader who helps rev the crowd with her older counterparts at football games is dealing with a very grown-up issue these days.
A recent, serious diagnosis of a rare form of eye cancer has her sidelined and dealing with doctors on an almost daily basis. Her parents were alerted to the problem when they noticed a white spot in her eye in photographs. They were told the tumor was blocking the retina from reflecting the flash of the camera.
Karli's mother, Amy, said things are changing on a daily basis for her little girl. Doctors recently told Karli's parents they could treat the cancer with chemo, but would have to remove her eye.
However, they gained a little hope when they learned of a doctor out of state.
“We had an appointment to have her eye removed when the doctors ask us if we have ever heard of Dr. Abramson in New York,” Amy said.
There is a slight chance the little sight left in that eye could be saved, and, with treatment, perhaps the eye would not have to be removed as previously planned.
Amy explained that while they were in New York City this past week, the doctors begin injecting a high dose of chemo through a catheter inserted in her leg straight into the artery of the eye. The procedure will hopefully kill the tumor, but will definitely not restore vision.
Amy said the negative part about this procedure is that there's just been a two-year study and there is a limited amount of data on it. Doctors told Amy, and her husband Kevin, no one has lost an eye with this treatment thus far. Doctors said Karli will need three or four chemo treatments and there's a 50/50 chance she will lose the eye anyway.
"A week before, we were given no chance so 50/50 is a huge increase,” said Amy. The Costleys will travel back to New York on Oct. 7 for an exam to determine if this treatment is working.
“We ask Dr. Abramson if he has ever treated a tumor this size, and he said not as the primary line of treatment,” Amy said. “I asked the doctor if he had treated anyone from Tennessee before, and he said he didn’t think he’d ever done anyone from this region.”
Amy said she and her husband talked about "how weird this all feels and how we never, in a million years, would have imagined that we would be on this side of this scenario."
“I always thought cancer was something that happened to other people’s children … unfortunately, we have now become other people," she said.
On Wednesday, Karli will have to have labs drawn just to verify that the chemo has not caused her counts to drop, or any other abnormalities to occur.
"Ironically, four weeks ago, that would have been the most stressful event in our lives, to know our child was going to be stuck for blood work, and now that seems so minimal, when compared to all that she has been through!" said Amy.
And, it's been a lot for such a little girl. Four anesthetics in two weeks, six new doctors exams, plus a femoral artery catheterization and chemo into her eye.
"It just floors me how much our lives have changed in such a short time," Amy said. "I really have not caught myself being angry about it, but that has never been my way. I do catch myself pitying her, but all it takes is 10 minutes of watching her run wild and taking a good look at many of the people all around us who are suffering, to realize that she does not need to be pitied!"
Amy noted Karli told her at the airport that she knew there was a cancer in her eye.
"I asked her to please tell mommy if she started seeing anything different or feeling anything different in that eye," said Amy.
"She was looking down at the table and said, 'Cuz that cancer is going to go out of my eye,' and then looked at me, asking for my reassurance.
“All I could muster up to say was, 'I hope so, baby. I hope so.'"
To keep up to date on Karli, check out her website at: caringbridge.org/visit/karlicostley
Mt. Juliet News Sports Editor George Page can be reached at 754-6397.