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Brother And Sister Get Diagnosed With The Same Brain Cancer

Jul 02, 2018 08:20 PM EDT
Avery Siblings
The Avery siblings have had their brain tumors removed within several days of each other. Here, Noah is seen three days after his surgery and Kalea is 11 days after hers.
(Photo : Fight Like The Avery's | Instagram)

Within just two weeks, siblings Kalea and Noah Avery have been diagnosed with the same type of brain cancer known as medullablastoma.

As the family fights the disease, the parents, Duncan and Nohea, are now also dedicated to raising awareness of the role of genetics in cancer.

A Family Tragedy

It was Kalea, 6, who was first diagnosed with a brain tumor during Memorial Day weekend, according to Los Angeles Times. She underwent surgery to remove the mass on June 11.

Soon after, her younger brother Noah, 4, began experiencing pain in the exact same spot that Kalea complained of just a week ago. Then, he vomited and started walking with his body tilted to the right.

Upon testing, doctors confirmed that Noah also had brain cancer with a tumor in the exact same place as her sister's. His is even bigger than Kalea's.

"You cry so much the week before and then whatever you have left is just broken," Duncan, a surf coach at Redondo Union High School, recalls in ABC 7 Chicago. "My wife and I were just holding each other in tears."

The tumors in Kalea and Noah's brains have been fully removed, which makes their chance of a five-year survival about 80 percent. Fortunately, it hasn't spread to other parts. After five years, it's unlikely that the cancer will return, according to Dr. Ramin Javahery who operated on the two children.

Radiation and chemotherapy, which is part of the post-operation treatment to ensure the cancer doesn't return, do pose some risks to the two kids. Doctors say that cognitive development could be delayed in an effect of radiation.

Speech, physical, and occupational therapy are all probably in the future for Kalea and Noah.

The Disease

The Avery siblings' cancer is known as medulloblastoma, which is an aggressive type of tumor located at the back of the brain. In the United States, about 500 children are diagnosed every year.

Doctors are shocked at the twin diagnosis within days of each other, saying there is no precedent for such an incident. There has been cases of siblings developing the same type of brain cancer, but they do not usually get the illness at the same time.

"It's very unusual," Dr. Lauren Nguyen tells LA Times. "It could be random, but probably not."

The medical team suggests that the siblings' genes could make them susceptible to medulloblastoma. An environmental trigger is reportedly unlikely.

The Avery family are pushing for more knowledge on the dangerous childhood disease.

"With the advances in medicine and if there's just a way to say, 'hey, you know what, this gene triggers the medullablastoma,' maybe they can catch it early enough," Duncan says.

Duncan and wife Nohea decided that along with focusing on the health of their two children, they also want to create more awareness for the disease. The couple created the Instagram account to offer a voice to medullablastoma and its sufferers.

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