Cancer exposes childhood brain tumor patient to a world of art
When 5-year old Kloe Ponce started having severe headaches and experiencing sensitivity to bright lights and sounds, her family never suspected it was a childhood brain tumor.
Kloe's mom sought answers during visits to urgent care centers and hospital emergency rooms near her home in Corpus Christi, Texas. “We knew something was wrong, but we followed recommendations to change her diet, increase her fluid intake and even monitor her blood sugar,” says Kloe’s mom, Maryjessie Soliz. But the episodes continued.
Maryjessie voiced her concerns again at Kloe’s 7-year checkup. The pediatrician reviewed her chart and discovered that her growth was stunted. “He told me that Kloe had stopped growing, and she was the same size as a 4-year-old,” Maryjessie recalls.
A childhood brain tumor diagnosis
This discovery, combined with Kloe’s aggressive headaches, prompted the pediatrician to refer the family to a neurologist for testing. An MRI revealed a mass in her brain -- a germinoma brain tumor. The tumor was wrapped around her pituitary gland, which was affecting her growth.
“It was scary to learn my child had a brain tumor, but a relief to finally have an answer after almost two years,” Maryjessie says. “When the headaches came, it was like her body would shut down, and we didn’t know why.”
In October 2016, Kloe underwent a craniotomy to remove the tumor. Because of the tumor’s location, doctors couldn’t remove it all. They recommended radiation therapy to kill the rest of the tumor.
Childhood brain tumor treatment at MD Anderson
When Maryjessie began looking at radiation therapy options, several medical professionals and friends recommended MD Anderson. Though she was worried about traveling back-and-forth to Houston, Maryjessie was even more concerned about the possible side effects Kloe would face. Weighing her options, Maryjessie chose MD Anderson. “It wasn’t a hard decision. I wanted my daughter to have the best possible care.”
In February 2017, Kloe started treatment at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, undergoing chemotherapy and proton therapy to destroy the remainder of the tumor. In June, Kloe rang the bell at MD Anderson to signify the end of her treatment. In July, she rang the bell again to celebrate an even more significant milestone -- clear scans.
“Kloe was very insistent about ringing the bell after her scans came back showing no signs of cancer,” Maryjessie says. “Aside from the days she attended the hospital’s art classes, ringing the bell was one of her happiest days at MD Anderson.”
Into the light: a gift of art revealed
During her treatment at the Children’s Cancer Hospital, Kloe had some challenging days, but she remained upbeat. In fact, her bubbly personality captured the attention of the MD Anderson Children’s Art Project.
“Kloe was always so happy during art class,” says Kasey Marsh, who coordinates therapeutic art classes for MD Anderson’s pediatric cancer patients. “She also was very independent with her drawings and had her own style.”
“One of Kloe’s most memorable experiences is drawing and painting with Kasey at the hospital,” Maryjessie says. Kloe continues to draw, and has her heart set on owning a dress shop where she plans to sell dresses and her artwork. For now, though, she’s excited that her alligator art is making its way into others’ homes.
“She is so happy that people will have a chance to see her alligator design through Children’s Art Project,” Maryjessie says.