For most parents, discovering their child has a rare disease can be devastating. But for Case and Afton Hoffman, Center Point, it was a blessing in disguise.
"If Ella hadn't been diagnosed by the doctors when she was, she wouldn't be with us now," Afton told The Brazil Times. "She's been through so much. Ella always comes through it all with a smile on her face. She's simply amazing."
Ella is the granddaughter of Mary Ann Hofmann and the late Herb Hoffman, Center Point, and Jill and Kent Joslin, Brazil.
In November 2008, 7-month-old Ella was diagnosed with Retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer caused by a genetic disorder, during a CAT scan for another medical condition. Retinoblastoma occurs when malignant cancerous tumor(s) occur in the retina. It generally affects children under the age of 6 and is most commonly diagnosed in children aged 1 - 2 years.
"There were so many tumors in both of her eyes," Afton said, adding that Ella endured six rounds of chemotherapy and ultimately proton beam radiation treatment on her pupils. "It was so difficult for her. The sunlight, bright lights, hurt her eyes. For a month afterward, Ella buried her head in my chest all the time."
Although it was a painful process, Ella's eyes finally stabilized for six months. Through eye exams and following check ups, doctors kept a close watch on the little girl's condition. There were several necessary eye surgeries, including one to remove cataracts caused by the previous radiation treatments.
In April, doctors discovered the tumors had returned in Ella's eyes.
"On May 21, doctors removed her left eye and replaced it with a prosthesis," Afton said about the surgery to help prevent the cancer from returning. "Her right eye was able to be stabilized."
The energetic, happy toddler loves to smile, laugh, swim, swing and play outside.
"She's doing really well with only one eye. Ella never meets a stranger and always has a smile," Afton said. "I just want everyone to know how awesome she is. Ella is definitely a fighter."
And the fight continues.
"We go to (eye) doctor appointments about every five weeks, but there are other doctor appointments in between too," Afton said about the many trips to St. Jude's and Riley Children's Hospital. "The doctors are really hopeful."
While Case works, Afton stays at home to take care of Ella.
A benefit has been organized to help the family with expenses.
On Saturday, July 24, a fundraiser will be conducted at Hunter's Lounge, East United States Highway 40, just east of Brazil.
The event, which will take place from 3-9 p.m., will feature live music from bands "Four Days in Space" and "The Barn Lizards," as well as a hog roast and several raffles, including one for tickets to an upcoming Pittsburgh Steelers football game.
For more information, contact Afton at 812-835-3057 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
A second fundraiser is also being organized to take place at Traditions on Aug. 7. Although details are not completed at this time, organizers confirmed to The Brazil Times a DJ, several raffles and a sit-down dinner are scheduled to take place at the event. For more information about the second fundraiser, e-mail organizers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Everyone has been so wonderful and helpful during all of this," Afton said. "I can't say how much we appreciate everyone for their love, thoughts, support and prayers."
For those who are interested in learning more about Ella Hoffman's condition, log onto www.caringbridge.org/visit/ellagrace01.
"We are so proud of her," Afton said about her daughter. "We are so blessed that God sent her to us. You never think it's possible to love something so much, but she is our world. Ella is amazing."