5-Year-Old With Brain Cancer Enjoys Second Trip to Disney World After Surgery Interrupted the First
Lena Tietjen, 5, had a close brush with death during their first trip to Disney World.
A young girl battling brain cancer had another chance to enjoy the magic of Disney World after her first trip was interrupted by illness and emergency surgery.
Lena Tietjen, 5, of New Jersey, was never supposed to make it to Christmas.
Doctors told her parents she had anaplastic astrocytoma, a rare malignant brain tumor, last November. Believing she was in her last days, her parents Erin and Matt Tietjen embarked on a last-minute trip to Disney World with Lena and her twin brother, Clark, to fulfill her final wish.
"She didn’t have a good trip," Erin told InsideEdition.com. "She was sleeping most of it, she was progressively getting worse. By the end of the trip, right as we were about to leave, she started vomiting and we had to rush her to Arnold Palmer."
By the time they reached the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children in Orlando, doctors discovered the tumor had doubled in size.
However, despite doctors at home deeming it inoperable, a team of Arnold Palmer surgeons that included Dr. Samer Elbabaa decided to give surgery a shot as a last ditch effort.
The surgery was a success, and more than 90 percent of the tumor, which once led doctors to believe she wouldn’t live more than a few weeks, was removed.
Ever since the miraculous surgery, her parents said Lena has been better than ever.
"She’s going swimming," Matt said. "Going to the boardwalk, going to Chuck E. Cheese's, doing things that every 5-year-old wants to do."
Lena even got to dance with Mickey Mouse and go on different rides with her brother during a make-up trip to Disney World last month, thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
"She was walking around, she’s playing, she’s doing late nights, she’s out watching fireworks," her dad said. "To compare how she was doing on her first trip in November to how she is doing today, it’s just a world of difference."
The family even met with the surgeons who saved Lena’s life at Arnold Palmer Hospital during their most recent trip to Disney World, to thank the team for giving her a new lease on life.
But her parents said she is still not out of the woods. Lena just finished her radiation and is involved in a clinical trial at NYU. While MRIs don’t show any new tumors yet, doctors said the glioblastoma may cause new tumors to appear at any moment.
For now, the Tietjens are looking forward to sending her off to kindergarten in the fall.
"We are excited for her to start kindergarten," Erin said. "We think that she is going to be able to do wonderful and exceptional, because she is exceptional and wonderful, and she’s the most resilient kid I’ve ever met."
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