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Bridgette's Journey

Posted by Jaime Naples on

Bridgette's Journey

Written by Cathie Pinto, Bridgette's Grammie

Bridgette (Bridgi) was born on April 12, 2009 (Easter Sunday).  She just turned 9 years old. 

At the end of October, Bridgi was diagnosed with a tumor in or near her pituitary gland following an MRI ordered by her pediatrician.  She was quickly referred to one of the best pediatric neurosurgeons in the United States at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.  Our meeting with Dr. Mark Krieger revealed that the tumor was not only wreaking havoc with Bridgi's pituitary gland and hormones, but it was also encasing her carotid arteries and pressing on her optical nerve.   Surgery to remove the tumor was scheduled for November 3rd.  It was quite an experience for this 8-year-old, and just as Dr. Krieger predicted, she didn't like anyone for several days following the surgery.  Eventually, the packing in her nose/sinus cavity was removed and she slowly regained her strength.  On November 7th, Bridgi was discharged from the hospital and on November 8th, we had a three-hour meeting with Bridgi's amazing medical team consisting of a Pediatric Neurosurgeon, Pediatric Neuro-Oncologist, Pediatric Oncology-Endocrinologist, Pediatric Ophthalmologist, Neuro-psychologists and many more. 

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             Bridgette (R) with sister Brielle. 

The diagnostic tissue revealed that the tumor is classified as a GERMINOMA.  A GERMINOMA is a type of germ cell tumor that is most commonly found in the brain.  Usually, germ cells migrate to the gonads during fetal development and become an egg in the female ovaries or sperm in the male testes.  However, if these germ cells don't migrate to the correct location, they can become trapped in the brain and multiply in areas where they shouldn't.  This type of cancer carries a relatively excellent prognosis, with a cure rate in more than 90% of the cases.  Fortunately, this tumor had not yet planted any “seeds” in Bridgi’s spine, which was great news.

From November 20th, 2017 to February 2, 2018,  Bridgi underwent four cycles of chemotherapy treatments (3 days on; 3 weeks off; repeat) and then 15 radiation sessions (5 days a week for 3 weeks thereafter).  On February 14th, the oncologist showed us the MRI of the brain which revealed the tumor was completely gone! 

Yes, Bridgi did lose her hair, which has not fazed her much.  It looks like this little towhead is growing in some darker hair, so it will be fun to see what God blesses her with this time around!  Other than hair loss and a few fevers (which are always scary and require hospitalization), she maintained a good appetite and had no other bad side effects.  At the end of February, she was able to return to school part-time, and upon completing radiation treatment, returned full-time. 

There are a multitude of other problems because the tumor affected the pituitary gland, so Bridgi has to be on thyroid medications and hydrocortisone probably for life.  Also she developed diabetes insipidus (which is completely different than diabetes types 1 or 2). This causes excessive thirst and urination and the kidneys don’t process the fluid to other areas of the body, instead sending fluids out as clear, odorless urine. Without the water, Bridgi could become dehydrated very quickly (and that's a simplified explanation).  Fortunately, Bridgi recognizes her thirst level and drinks plenty of liquid, but she is on medication for that as well.

Bridgette at the Greater Los Angeles Make a Wish Foundation

It's amazing that there were other tell-tale signs of this brain tumor forming prior to diagnosis – perhaps back to 2015 when Bridgi was exhibiting excessive thirst and frequent bathroom visits.  Had her pediatrician tested for diabetes insipidus and it was positive, then a brain MRI would have been ordered immediately, as diabetes insipidus is related to brain tumors.  The pediatrician tested for regular diabetes and that came back negative.  Also, when Bridgi began experiencing vision problems last July, two different Optometrists essentially accused Bridgi of “faking it” or “not trying hard enough” on her eye exams so she could get glasses like the rest of her friends.  However, the exams were so “off the wall” with results, these Optometrists should have immediately referred her to an Ophthalmologist or back to her Pediatrician for further testing.  Sadly, the delay caused by the optometric misdiagnoses caused permanent damage to the left lower quarter of the eye, affecting Bridgi’s peripheral vision.  However, the exciting news is that her overall vision has improved significantly (her ophthalmologist said “unexpectedly remarkable.”) 

Bridgette named her Walk-A-Thon Team: "Bridgette's Sluggers"

A day after finishing her radiation treatments, Bridgi walked 5K to raise funds for the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children's Cancer (MHF)  a local organization that helps children with cancer and their families.  Within a week of Bridgi’s diagnosis, Mandie Pinto-Czarnecki (Bridgi's mom) was contacted by a MHF representative who has become a close friend.  She was provided with gift cards for meals, groceries and gas, and many, many parking passes for Children’s Hospital, as well as gifts and crafts for Bridgi and her younger sister, Brielle.  Bridgi raised almost $4,800 for at the 5K walk and participates in many of the activities sponsored by this outstanding organization.  

For now, Bridgi is working on checking off items on her “bucket list” which included going to Target, having tea at her favorite tea house (Tea Gardens), going to the American Girl Place in Los Angeles with her friends and their dolls (all wearing customized Every Day Aprons!). 

(Pictured L-R) Girls Day: Caroline, Brielle, Kate, Bridgette, and Audrey

We just finished a mini-vacation to Disneyland (which is local for us).  Bridgi interviewed with Make A Wish Foundation early this year and received notification that they are working on her request to go to Hawaii and swim with the dolphins.  She is also hoping to going to meet her favorite Los Angeles Angels Baseball player, Mike Trout, on June 22, 2018. My daughter, Mandie, will be singing the National and Canadian anthems too that day. The Angels organization wanted to give Bridgi plenty of time to spend with Mike so they blocked out a good amount of time. She can’t wait!

According to Bridgi’s oncologist, she is a cancer survivor and her cancer is in remission.  He told us that if anyone “had” to get a brain tumor, a Germinoma is the best kind to get as it is highly responsive to chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  Bridgi will require MRI’s every 3 months for 2 years, then every 6 months and eventually annually.  But her spirit and joy has brought happiness, smiles and courage to so many on this journey.  We give God all the glory!

Please consider making a donation to the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children's Cancer in Bridgette's Honor. On the payment page, there is an area for "additional notes" to type  Bridgette's Czarnecki's name. If you prefer, donations and cards can be sent to: Bridgette Czarnecki, P.O. Box 2178, Santa Clarita, CA 91386
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