Josh and Jessica Rawls, along with daughter Lexi and son Adon, relocated to Little Rock after Lexi was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Four-year-old Lexi Rawls plays on the floor at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center where she is receiving treatment.
Jan. 4, 2013 | Lexi Rawls can’t stop smiling. She’s a happy 4-year-old, who loves her family and her toys.
The only difference is that Lexi is facing a challenge that no child should ever face: cancer.
Lexi, Jessica, dad Josh and baby brother Adon have been away from their Bentonville home almost continually since late October when Lexi was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a malignant tumor located in the back of her brain.
What Jessica describes as her family’s “emotional roller coaster” started with Lexi experiencing headaches and an inability to walk properly. After a series of trips to the emergency room and primary care doctor, the family was still without a proper diagnosis. That’s when an MRI was scheduled and Lexi’s family learned the truth.
“When they said tumor, I just blocked everything out. Luckily, my mom was there with me and was able to absorb what the doctor was saying,” Jessica said.
Lexi was sent via helicopter to Arkansas Children’s Hospital, an affiliate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where she underwent surgery followed by low-grade chemotherapy once a week. Simultaneously, Lexi received radiation therapy at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center under the supervision of Jose Penagaricano, M.D., professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology in the UAMS College of Medicine.
While the family stayed in Little Rock for Lexi’s treatment through Christmas, they are now home for six weeks before returning for additional chemo treatments.
“This type of tumor is not unusual for a child her age. We see a fair number of patients with this type of brain tumor here at UAMS,” Penagaricano said, adding that it’s important for Lexi’s parents to continue her regular visits to the doctor even after her treatment is complete.
Because of the complexity of a condition such as Lexi’s, it takes multiple doctors to manage the many aspects of her care. David Becton, M.D., chief of Pediatric Oncology and a professor in the UAMS College of Medicine, saw Lexi in the earliest stages of her cancer and is pleased with her improvement.
“It’s hard for a child to experience cancer, but kids are resilient, brave and strong. They take it one day at a time, and they don’t spend time worrying. Lexi is doing amazingly well. She’s an amazing young lady who has a supportive family. It’s been hard on them, but they’re doing great,” Becton said.
Jessica is encouraged by her daughter’s progress, her ability to bounce back after exhausting treatments and by her “spunky attitude.” She also is thankful for those taking care of Lexi. “Everyone has been so good to communicate with us. The staff at UAMS even bought Lexi Christmas gifts. They’ve been great,” Jessica said.
This experience has strengthened this young family in ways they couldn’t have imagined. “After Lexi’s surgery, I feel like God put a hand on me and made me strong,” she said. “We are going to continue to grow stronger because of this.”