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Middle School News

November 3, 2017

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“No Shave November” Highlights Saga of Young MRH Student’s Cancer Struggle

In the biblical book of Judges, we’re told that Samson lost his strength when Delilah allowed the Philistines to shave his hair while he slept. In the case of a little Maplewood girl named Dottie, her strength was only magnified when her hair began to wither after a heart wrenching diagnosis: cancer.

Hair loss associated with cancer treatment is the impetus of a renowned initiative called “No Shave November.” It’s a month-long journey during which participants forgo shaving in order to evoke conversations about cancer. The goal is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow unfettered.

Dottie Coriell, now five years old, is in her second year at the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District’s Early Childhood Center. Her father, Matt, says she is particularly fond of her two primary teachers, Scott Hankley and Dana Isom. Dottie attends the ECC full time this year; last year, she attended part time while she waged a battle against fast-spreading kidney cancer.

Her saga began in May of 2016, when she was just three. On Sunday, May 1, Dottie and her little brother Colton were taking a bath when mom noticed Dottie was looking bloated. She had been having occasional stomach aches and a fever for a few weeks. Matt took Dottie to Mercy Hospital where blood was drawn. After consulting with an oncologist Dottie was admitted. The following morning, an X-ray and ultrasound showed that Dottie had a very large tumor on her kidney. A flurry of testing revealed that the cancer had not spread elsewhere, so on May 5, surgeons removed it.

But the danger wasn’t over. The 2.5 pound tumor had become attached to her liver and during removal, Dottie lost a large amount of blood during the effort to detach it. She received three units of blood during the procedure and also had a main line port installed to make future intravenous access easier.  After 24 hours, Dottie was allowed to eat and sit up, and on day two, she was walking. Dottie was then given a protocol of one week of radiation to the abdomen and half a year of chemotherapy.

It was time to go home.

She made it about six weeks before losing her hair. She would get chemo every three weeks.  It was around this time that Dottie started preschool at the MRH ECC. Remarkably, she also started playing soccer, a great activity as physical therapy.  She was also prescribed swimming to help keep her joints and muscles active. The chemo took away her reflexes making soccer a challenge, but she didn't let that stop her.  By the end of the season Dottie went from having to walk and fall a lot to full-on running and kicking the ball.

In November 2016, Dottie completed her last round of chemo.  Tests confirmed that she was cancer free. Father Matt Coriell describes a particular type of anxiety which he calls “Scan-xiety,” that feeling of dread every time he takes his daughter to the hospital for follow-up x-rays.  But he’s quick to point out that recently, Dottie became ill and managed to fight it off with her own immune system, rather than relying on a course of antibiotics. The IV port was recently removed, and yes, her hair has grown back.

All this month, MRH staffers are taking part in “No Shave November.”  If you’d like to get involved, find more information at this site: https://no-shave.org/

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.