Rachel Chaya Lembeck was born with a tumor on her forearm and was formally diagnosed 10 days after her birth with a rare form of cancer, Infantile Fibrosarcoma.
Rachel’s middle name in Hebrew means “life,” and from the day she was born she showed the determination to live and was blessed with many miracles that saved her life.
Rachel is now 5 years old and is thriving and happy. She started Kindergarten this year. Rachel is very outgoing and has a lot of friends in her class. Rachel learned how to read this year and is showing signs of having an advanced knowledge in math just like her brothers. She also enjoys dancing and swimming. Rachel is a girly girl and loves to dress up, get her nails done, and wear make-up. Rachel tackles every activity with enthusiasm and constantly reminds us that she has a zest for life.
Rachel’s cancer journey began on June 18, 2013. Her mom started her day by going to my obstetrician for her 36-week ultrasound.
The ultrasound technician saw something on Rachel’s left forearm. The only reason she noticed the growth was because Rachel’s arm was in front of her face. The tech told Rachel’s mom she needed to go to a perinatologist later in the week to get a better image of the growth. As Rachel’s mom was leaving the office, a staff member stopped her and told me they could get me an appointment that day.
At the perinatologist, they saw the mass, but could not determine what it was. During labor, when the obstetrician opened Rachel’s mom’s uterus, it was filled with blood. The growth on Rachel’s arm was hemorrhaging. Rachel was quickly transfused with blood.
Had Rachel been born minutes later, she likely would not have survived.
Rachel was transported to the NICU where she was put on a ventilator and carefully monitored.
The doctors still did not know what the mass was on Rachel’s arm. It was as large as her entire forearm. On June 28th we received her diagnosis: Infantile Fibrosarcoma. Rachel received her first treatment of chemotherapy that day.
That evening the doctor told Rachel’s family that her arm was bleeding again and they could not get the blood into her fast enough. They had tried everything and it looked like she would not make it. Her parents asked the doctor to try to push the blood through the umbilical vein, as they did at her birth. He said at 10 days after birth that was impossible because it would be closed, but he would try. It worked. Rachel was saved once again.
Thereafter, Rachel steadily improved. Rachel spent five weeks in the NICU and endured six rounds of chemotherapy over the next four months. Rachel had some rough moments, but she mostly smiled through the suffering. She was by far the youngest chemotherapy patient in the hospital and was quite popular with the nursing staff.
After Rachel finished her sixth round of chemotherapy, she was finally ready for the surgery to remove the tumor. Many doctors told Rachel’s it would be impossible to remove the tumor without amputating her arm. However, we found an amazing surgeon that saved her arm. Rachel underwent surgery and had a tremendous result. The tumor was removed and she saved almost all function in her arm and fingers.
After surgery, Rachel underwent two more rounds of chemotherapy. Rachel plowed through the treatment with a smile on her face.
Her function in her arm and fingers is incredible, and she has surpassed everyone’s expectations including the doctors who don’t understand how she is able to move her hand and fingers in the way she does. The only explanation is that she is a miracle. Rachel finished going for routine scans since there has been no evidence that the cancer has returned. Rachel goes to survivor clinic one time per year, but otherwise has no more appointments due to cancer.
Every child who has been diagnosed with childhood cancer inspires us to Rally On to find better treatments with fewer long-term side effects and, ultimately, cures. Please join us in the fight against childhood cancer by making a donation or setting up your own Rally fundraiser today.