Washington mother Keenan Sanders was mildly alarmed when she noticed her infant daughter’s abdomen had started to protrude, but chalked it up to indigestion. Following an X-ray at Seattle Children’s Hospital, doctors discovered that 8-week-old Leighton Sanders was suffering from a 3-lb. tumor that had attached itself to most of her internal organs.
"Then it got worse and it got worse. Now we're dealing with I'm gonna have a child that's fed through tubes, has drains coming out of her body, who won't eat, and will be in the hospital for a very long time," Sanders told KOMO News. "It had attached itself to almost every organ in her entire body.”
When doctors discovered how quickly the cantaloupe-sized tumor was growing, they prepped the infant for a 12-hour operation to remove the cancerous lump. In addition to the tumor, surgeons removed her intestines, gallbladder, part of her pancreas, colon, and part of her stomach. Weighing 8.5 lbs. prior to surgery, Leighton dropped to 5.5 lbs. after six surgeries in the span of one week.
Although doctors are confident Leighton’s body is cancer-free after removing 99 percent of the tumor, her parents are wary over what removing so many vital organs will mean for her future health. Moving forward, Leighton will require multiple organ transplants to repair her digestive system and another procedure to install an artificial digestive tract.
“As long as I have a piece of hope, there’s something I can hang on to,” Sanders told ABC News. “There were a couple days where it seemed her best case scenario was so dismal. It was just crushing. I had forgotten we had come to the hospital for cancer in the first place. That became the best case scenario, that it’s just cancer.”
Leighton’s parents, obviously devastated over the health complications experienced by their newborn daughter, have refused to leave her side in the hospital’s ICU. Friends of the Sanders family have set up a GoFundMe account to help pay for surmounting medical bills and household expense. Donations have currently reached $21,250, over half of its intended $40,000 goal.