Friday, March 18, 2011

Greetings from the Cannon family,

First off - I hope everyone is doing well. We are doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances and yet spirits are buoyant and hopeful.

I'm sure some of you know, but our little girl Autumn (4 years-old) had emergency surgery two days ago to remove her kidney and the large tumor that was attached to it. I just wanted to let everyone know how she was doing, her prognosis and to express our thanks and gratitude to the amazing outpouring of support shown to our family.

How it happened

Juliet and Autumn were at the beauty college in Five Cities at 11:00 a.m. and it was time to leave. Juliet summoned Autumn and she tripped on a bar affixed at the end of one of the chairs. She fell flat on the left side of her abdomen and began to cry. Juliet noted that she was crying differently and a little more than a typical fall from a foot off the ground. They went home and Autumn sat on the couch uncomfortably and even barfed a little. This is when Juliet became concerned and started to suspect a concussion. She called the pediatrician's office and they were at lunch, so she opted to take her to the French Hospital Emergency Room. They took a CT scan and thought she had ruptured her spleen at first look, but then concluded she had a very large mass on the top of her left kidney and it had ruptured.

Everything then happened very quickly. There are no pediatric surgeons in San Luis Obispo, so they made the decision to airlift her to Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara for immediate surgery. Dr. William Kincannon started to operate at 7:10 on Tuesday night to rid our Autumn of her cancerous tumor, a mere 8 hours after the initial impact on an unforgiving salon floor - for this we are eternally grateful.

The good doctor completed surgery about 9:40 and came to speak with us soon after. Still in scrubs, he recounted that the tumor was a rather large one - gesticulating with his hands the shape a size of a smaller Nerf football. He said he was fairly sure it was a Wilms tumor, and would be shocked if it wasn't. He had seen many in his day, but this one was big and rather lobed - still encapsulated and ruptured. They prefer them to be contained, but he was pleased that it had grown free-standing with no attachment to the peritoneal cavity. He also said there were some surrounding lymph nodes affected, so they opted to remove the diseased kidney with tumor, the nodes and irrigated the cavity with water. They then vacuumed cavity all out to remove the potentially dangerous blood and fluids to prevent "seeding" or cancer cell growth in the surrounding tissues.

Autumn, thankfully, does not remember the surgery itself, but does remember the fall and them "poking" her to find a vein (like 10-15 times). Little kid veins are hard to find.

How she's doing and what we've learned

She was in ICU for about a day and then was moved to a normal pediatric room. They told us it would be 24-48 hours before we had conclusive evidence as to what kind of tumor it was, what stage, and what kind of treatment we could expect..etc.

After lots of anxious waiting, as of today, Friday, we now know it was a Wilms tumor (occurs in children under 5) which is rare as a cancer, but about 1 in 500 kidney cancers are Wilms. She is Stage 3 degree of severity - meaning the cancer was large, had spread to some surrounding tissue (namely 3 lymph nodes) and there was a rupture. The cancer cells are uniform - so she has the favorable rating as opposed to unfavorable which are cells with bizarre shapes. There is one small area (and slide) with odd shaped sells - so she has an anaplastic locus - but is not considered worrisome unless 15% of the tumor has this condition. After 4 years, this type of cancer, with proper care and monitoring has a recovery rate of 85 to 90%. We will take that ALL DAY.

She will have to undergo a relatively light chemotherapy regimen for 6 months. It is a DD4A therapy, which involves 3 different drugs, once a week here in Santa Barbara. There will be radiation treatment everyday for an as-yet-to-be determined three week period, also here at Cottage Hospital.

She also has to have another hour-long procedure next week to install a port-cath which allows the medical staff to administer the therapy as well as draw blood and connect IVs without having to find a vein every week. This requires another inch-long incision in her chest and another small cut in the fold of her neck to place a sub-cutaneous reservoir and line to the vena cava at her heart. The fun never ends, huh?

They expect Autumn to respond well. She has shown she is extremely resilient (she asked for chicken nuggets today - 2 days after major surgery), manages pain well (she got out of bed on her own today and is off morphine) and is healing very fast -  she has a six-inch incision with 14 staples on the left side of her abdomen, right above her belly button - it already looks better. Follow her blog on

Today she is walking around without her IV, sitting upright, coloring and eating solids. We even went for a walk to the rooftop patio. It is truly amazing that in less than 3 days after losing a kidney she is as adventurous, spunky and smiley as she ever was.

Huge "thank yous" all around

Autumn is a living testament to the care, love and support that the staff, our family and the good wishes and prayers you all have wished upon our family can do. Please keep the good juju up! We are not out of the woods, yet. We cannot express what it means to us to have the outpouring of support we have experienced. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your donations, time, friendships and unyielding support to help our baby girl Autumn to lead a normal cancer-free life. We love you all and will do anything we can to ease your burdens whenever we can. We are all doing this life thing together and all we have is each other - so Muchas Gracias and hope to see you all very soon.

Love the Cannons - Jeff, Juliet, Sage, lindsey and Autumn


  1. We can hardly believe Autumn's spunk and spirit! Wow! Up and about, coloring, eating chicken nuggets -- even a tiff with her sister -- pretty amazingly normal for just a few days after surgery. Your thoughts about the love and support of everyone bring tears to our eyes. Hug everyone -- especially Autumn -- for us! Love, Janny Pie and Uncle Bob

  2. Autumn you are our new hero!! You are truly beatiful in these pictures. By the way who were you calling on the special red phone - ordering pizza? We are so sad to hear that your are sick, but glad to know that you're feeling better. Get better fast so we can see you again soon in Colorado. George, Annie, Katie and Evelyn.

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