Tears, joy as 3-year-old marks end of chemotherapy

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Today is special for 3-year-old Sofia Anderson because, with the help of her daddy, she gets to ring a bell.  The bell marks the end of 13 months of cancer treatment.

"This is the most amazing, amazing, amazing day -- the first day of our life again. It's like a birthday," Sofia's mother, Catalina Anderson, said as she tried to hold back tears. 
For the past four months, Sofia's been tumor-free. 

"We heard the word 'remission' on her birthday -- actually a few days before her birthday -- and it was a gift of life," Catalina smiled.

Her dad, Patrick, is looking forward to taking Sofia on a trip to Disney World.  "We're going to get in the car go travel see family that we haven't been able to see -- just enjoy life now that we're out of the hospital."

We first met the Anderson family in April 2015.  Sofia was still undergoing aggressive chemotherapy for an equally aggressive cancer called neuroblastoma. 

At the time of her diagnosis, doctors found tumors near Sofia's spine, around her eye and in her bone marrow.
"I just remember dropping down to the ground and just saying, 'It can't be!'" Catalina remembered. 

LINK: Watch the original report from 2015

At the time, Sofia and Catalina were spending half their time at home and the other half at All Children's Hospital.
Even after all that therapy, in almost half the children, the cancer comes back.  It's a harsh reality Kyle Matthews faced when he lost his son.

"It was absolutely horrible. It was the day before his second birthday and we he had had stem cell transplant and we were expecting a clean bill of health. It was very quick for Ezra after that -- he relapsed the last day in August and he died November 8," Kyle remembered.

After his death, Kyle and wife Robyn started a foundation. Through their efforts, they've helping fund a clinical trial using DFMO, a drug also used to treat sleeping sickness.  So far, there have been almost 200 children across the country treated with the drug. 

"It's looking really promising," Robyn said. 
"To know that we can have something to do with her hopefully never having to deal with this again, never having to deal with cancer again, that's awesome," Kyle told us. 

Pediatric oncologist Dr. Gregory Hale says Sofia will be the second child at All Children's to get the experimental drug. 

"This is actually fantastic because many times, we have chemotherapy drugs that have significant side effects, require hospitalization, require pain or surgery," he said.  "In this situation, this medication is oral.  It's all done as an outpatient, and the side effects seen in the early studies have all been minor." 

Even though there are no guarantees the drug will work, the day was filled with tears of joy and gratitude for the entire hospital staff treating Sofia. 
"This community has embraced us and loved us and supported us throughout this entire year.  Because of all these wonderful trials and the researchers doing what they do for these kids, my child has a second chance at life.  Now we have a second chance to be with her."

Sofia's Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/SofiaStrong-426720410826356/

Because of Ezra: https://becauseofezra.org/