Exploding Past Her Wilms’ Tumor: Part 1

Libby Serber

On July 4, 2005, a firecracker named Libby Grace Serber was born. The little girl with magenta hair grew up with explosive energy and glee. And chasing her provided her parents, Cara and Jeff Serber, their full allotment of exercise.

“I always wondered why I had this kid who I couldn’t keep up with,” Cara said. “I think it’s that personality that got her through this last year.”

In March 2012, Libby started developing regular low-grade fevers. True to form, her energy never waned, and she never acted ill. But the fevers just wouldn’t go away.

Libby’s pediatrician initially thought she merely had a tough virus, but gave her a blood test to confirm it wasn’t something more serious.

After the blood draw, Cara took Libby to a birthday party.

“Within 15 minutes, I got a call from the pediatrician,” Cara said. “She told me, ‘You need to get Libby to an emergency room now.’ She was concerned that her hemoglobin levels were dangerously low.”

 A Surprise Diagnosis

Libby was seen in the Children’s emergency department and admitted that night. Her medical team suspected her low hemoglobin might be a sign of a spleen disorder. Libby, though, maintained her trademark vigor and was discharged the following day.

She went to Children’s Medical Center at Legacy for another blood draw a couple of days later. That’s when Cara was asked if she noticed signs of anything abnormal on Libby.

“I said that Libby’s tummy protruded a little, which I was thinking at that time might be because her spleen was enlarged,” Cara said. “As a new mom, I had never thought it was abnormal before. I had thought it was just her little Buddha belly that all kids have.”

Libby underwent a stomach sonogram the next morning, just to be safe.

The sonogram revealed that she had a tumor on her kidney that looked like a rare type of cancer called a Wilms’ tumor.

“It was so surreal,” Cara said. “It was every stereotypical thing that you hear parents say: ‘This doesn’t happen to us.’ ‘We have healthy children.’ ‘How can this be happening?’”

Wilms’ Tumor (Nephroblastoma)

Wilms’ tumor is the most common cancer of the kidneys in children. Our team of experts in the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders treats approximately ten children with the condition every year.

Exploding Past Her Wilms’ Tumor: Part 2 includes the removal of a 3-pound tumor, Libby’s need for open-heart surgery and a part in the musical Annie.

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