As her senior year in high school drew to a close, Franchesca Lansang had everything mapped out in her head. But the large lump on her neck wasn’t part of the plan.
With her earbuds snug in her ears, Franchesca bobs her head from side to side. She’s humming along and smiling as she daydreams about the weekend.
The last couple of years have been challenging, but she’s embraced every opportunity to grow and become the young woman that she is. Through the ups and downs, she’s relied on her faith, family, friends and Korean pop music, or K-pop, to help her overcome any obstacles in her way. “My cousin introduced me to K-pop way back in 2011 and I was hooked,” says 19-year-old Franchesca. “I really like listening to music; it calms me when I’m stressed, and especially during chemotherapy.” Her favorite group, a charismatic boy band called B.A.P., provided much of the soundtrack to her long cycle of chemotherapy treatment and recovery.
“In September 2015, I was supposed to be starting college but instead I was starting chemotherapy,” says Franchesca. “For the next four months I spent a week in the hospital for chemo and then three weeks recovering at home. Then it was back to the hospital.”
Just a few months earlier, Franchesca had been a typical high school senior, celebrating her 18th birthday, getting ready for her senior prom and looking forward to her graduation. She had little time to worry about the lump growing on the left side of her neck.
Her mother, Maria, was concerned and wanted peace of mind. She took her daughter to the pediatrician. Maria was told that the lump was related to an infection and Franchesca was put on antibiotics. As any teenager would, she quickly turned her attention back to graduation. But the lump didn’t go away. Maria was now even more concerned and insisted that they go back to the pediatrician.
“Franchesca felt fine, and had no other symptoms,” says Maria. “But as a mom, you just know when things aren’t right.”
This time, a PET scan followed by a biopsy revealed the unthinkable: Franchesca’s swollen lymph node was actually a malignant tumor, measuring two inches in length and nearly just as wide.
Familiar and Close
Franchesca had stage II diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, a type of childhood non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that occurs most commonly among young adults.
Maria immediately turned to Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach – a place she already trusted, having given birth to both of her children there.
“Franchesca had a very aggressive cancer. We did further testing to ensure it hadn’t spread to her bone marrow or central nervous system,” says Jacqueline Casillas, M.D., medical director, Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center, Miller Children’s. “Fortunately, it had not. Her cancer was very treatable.”
The Jonathan Jaques Children’s Cancer Center (JJCCC) at Miller Children’s provides quality, compassionate care to children with cancer, sickle cell disease and other serious blood disorders. JJCCC is known for its comprehensive psychosocial programs and multi-disciplinary care teams that enhance patient care.
When a young patient is diagnosed with cancer, the health care team creates a care plan that is family centered — focusing on the child’s needs as well as the families — and follows them throughout childhood and into adulthood.
“We exclusively treat children and teens, knowing that their health care needs are different than adults,” says Dr. Casillas. “Our experience allows us to recognize the nuances that often accompany many childhood cancers. We also realize that cancer is difficult to beat. We integrate new research efforts into our treatment plans whenever possible to give our patients the best possible fighting chance. Not all hospitals have this capacity.”
JJCCC has earned a three-year accreditation by the Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons. Accreditation by the CoC is given only to those facilities that meet the rigorous evaluation and review process, which demonstrates the highest level of quality cancer care.
Miller Children’s is one of only 10 children’s hospitals nationwide to have full accreditation through the CoC of the American College of Surgeons.
Onward and Upward
Today, Franchesca is back in school. Now a freshman in college, she plans to major in education to work with special needs children.
She continues to follow-up with Dr. Casillas every month and has a PET/CT Scan every three months to check for reoccurrence of cancer. With Miller Children’s on her side, she is optimistic about what lies ahead.
“When I reflect on the experience I had, I am reminded of how much I learned about myself during that time,” says Franchesca. “With that, I am ready to live a full life and know that everything is going to be okay.”
For more information, please visit MillerChildrens.org/Cancer.