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Ellie’s Story


Ellie S. was an infant when her mother, Andrea, received the devastating news: Ellie had a tumor on her spine; it was a stage 2 neuroblastoma. Doctors operated, and based on imaging, they thought they got it all.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

4 years later, Ellie was having trouble opening her eye all the way and her pupils weren’t dilating.  Andrea knew something wasn’t right. Turns out Ellie’s doctors had been reading her scans incorrectly for years. The cancer had progressed.

“It was everywhere,” Andrea said, “Imaging revealed 7 different cancerous spots: on her hip, her head, there was soft tissue disease.”  Ellie’s cancer had metastasized and was now stage 4. She started on the standard protocol: 5 rounds of chemotherapy. She also needed a stem cell transplant. But in the end, the standard care wasn’t having an impact.

Andrea began researching other options to save her daughter. She found a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering and in 2015, Ellie started on the trial. Ellie and her parents traveled from their home in Minnesota to the trial site in New York more than 50 times and travel costs added up quickly.  She was spending about two thousand dollars each trip and slowly draining their savings account and college funds. “We did a couple fundraisers,” Andrea recalls, “But it was never enough.”

2 years into the trial, while watching NBC Nightly News in 2017, Andrea learned about Lazarex Cancer Foundation. “ I applied and Lazarex jumped right in to help, reimbursing us for all the costly travel expenses.”  Andrea says, “Now that we are being reimbursed, it’s taking the stress out of these trips. The help has been tremendous.. a huge blessing. We can finally start focusing on health and not the financial drain.”.

Today Ellie is 8, and her prognosis has taken a miraculous turn. Thanks to the clinical trial, Ellie’s tumors are gone and doctors say she is now cancer free.  She remains on the trial to prevent relapse. Andrea credits Lazarex for enabling them to stay the course of the trial.