Genasis: ‘I never let cancer define me’
An innovative treatment is providing hope for those living with chronic inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy caused by diabetes, cancer treatment, surgery or injury.
Fans of both football teams were cheering for Genasis Crafton, 13, as she performed with her school’s varsity cheerleading squad. “I was afraid I’d tip over,” says Genasis, who was using a walker for mobility. “The field was uneven, and I couldn’t feel my feet. But I finished the routine!”
A reporter from a local paper was at the game and highlighted her story in an article titled, “Cancer doesn’t stop Apple Valley girl from cheering.”
Genasis loved stunt cheerleading. She lived with joy and high energy — that’s why the headaches and breathing problems had seemed so unusual.
“I took her to the doctor,” says her mom, Gracie House. “She was anemic and they thought she might have mononucleosis, then pneumonia.”
Genasis’ right lung collapsed, and she was hospitalized for many weeks. She needed a chest tube to breathe, and tests revealed a 10 cm mass in her thymus and 100 blood clots in her lungs. She was diagnosed with Stage IV acute T-cell non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (blood cancer). “I was determined,” she says, “not to let cancer define me.”
For more than two years, she would receive chemotherapy as an outpatient — taking prednisone orally and nelarabine through a port into her heart. Nelarabine is only given on a high-risk protocol.
Genasis was transferred to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital in January 2013. “When I got to Loma Linda, everything changed,” she says. “I felt comfortable.”
Her mom agrees. “We felt safe. At Loma Linda we were often asked, ‘Can I pray with you? We want to pray for Genasis.’”
The side effects of the chemotherapy were devastating. Genasis remembers waking up in pain; her feet turned purple and her toes curled. Her condition worsened; she needed a wheelchair and was declared permanently disabled. Through it all, “I wanted to walk, without a walker,” she says.
In November, she began physical therapy with Mark Bussell, DPT, in rehabilitation services at Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus. As she began peripheral neuropathy treatment developed by Dr. Bussell, she began to heal.
“As we continue to research the actual mechanism for the success of the treatment,” says Dr. Bussell, “we are learning how joint position improves the relationship between the arteries and the neural connective tissue, allowing more blood to enter into the neural connective tissue.” This innovative treatment is providing hope for those living with chronic inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy caused by diabetes, cancer treatment, surgery or injury.
Genasis never let cancer define her; she is now a cheer coach. Her wheel chair is a distant memory and she doesn’t use a walker.
“We will never forget Mark’s compassion,” says her mom. “From the first time he met Genasis, he wanted to help.”