Little Ava Considine couldn’t be more energetic these days as she darts around the living room of her grandparents’ house on Chappie Street – toting Barbies, watching cartoons and grabbing a special snack every now and then.
She’s feisty and ready for the day, as most Charlestown girls are of her age.
But more than a year and a half ago, Ava – now almost 4 – was struggling for her life as she – and her parents Dan and Ayla Considine – battled the rare childhood cancer known as Neuroblastoma. The disease is one that most children are born with, but it doesn’t usually show until a few years into life – where it attacks the nerve endings and slowly destroys the body.
It was something that hit the family out of the blue.
There had been no real signs; no symptoms to check out.
Ayla said she had just been getting Ava her booster shots and a flu shot one day, and the next thing they knew – they were in for the fight of their lives.
“I was just there for the flu shot for her and the doctor began to feel her belly,” said Ayla and Dan. “He was concerned about it, but there were no symptoms. Looking bac on it, I could occasionally see something in her stomach, but it looked like an abdominal muscle. She never complained. You just don’t think it could be cancer in your 2.5 year old daughter. I got the call with bad news when I was on Route 1. They told me to bring her back in. I was so frantic I wanted to make a U-turn on the highway. It was the beginning of a very tough year.”
That was on Nov. 13, 2017, and Dan Considine – a Boston Firefighter who has spent most of his career until recently on Engine 4 at the Beacon Hill Firehouse – said it launched them into a very aggressive treatment schedule, with little Ava getting her first chemotherapy treatment on Thanksgiving Day.
However, initial therapies weren’t working out, and the disease is so uncommon that few know what to do.
“What happens is no one knows really what to do if that treatment doesn’t work, which is what happened to Ava,” he said.
Eventually, they were able to transfer her over to Children’s Hospital, and after a skilled surgeon performed a procedure and other treatments in early 2018, Ava seemed to recover. Now, she’s been better for a year, and the Considine family is looking to help other families who weren’t as fortunate.
Dan Considine said Neuroblastoma has very little money for research, as is the case for a lot of childhood cancers. With Neuroblastoma, there is a 50 percent relapse rate for children, and if there is a relapse, there is no treatment. Sadly, he said, only about 10 percent survive a relapse. Only about 60 percent of children survive the initial diagnosis.
However, there is good work being done, Dan and Ayla said, but there isn’t much funding or access to the drugs for relapse patients. A family in Braintree has pioneered a medication known as DFMO. Through the charity Beat-Nb, the Considines hope that their family and friends can help families that need access to this therapy – and that’s why they’ve decided to hold a time on March 16 at 7 p.m. in the Charlestown Knights of Columbus.
“We never had to go down that road, but for children who do, they sometimes can’t get access because they can’t afford it or can’t afford to travel to get it,” said Dan. “The time is meant to help families that need it…So much of the time during the last year when we were in treatment and procedures, you’re just a spectator. Now we can actually do something and help out in some way.”
Said Ayla, “If Ava was to have relapsed, that’s when this treatment comes in. Once you have relapse with Neuroblastoma, there is no cure. Now we just maintain it. As a parent, that’s not acceptable.”
The fundraiser will have raffles, Irish step dance, door prizes and a 50/50 raffle. Some of the prizes include a Patriots helmet signed by the entire Super Bowl team, as well as an autographed Tom Brady jersey. A full 100 percent of the money raised will go towards Beat-Nb and Neuroblastoma research.
“You see the commercials on TV and you feel bad and maybe you throw a check to St. Jude’s, but you never think it will happen to you or your family,” said Dan. “Now that it has happened to us, we figured we could ask everyone to throw a few bucks to a good cause and help people to learn about Neuroblastoma at the same time. It’s going to be a fun night.”
Tickets are going fast, and the event is somewhat sold out already. Anyone wishing to buy tickets or make donations can contact Dan Considine at (617) 233-3067 or Ayla Considine at (857) 445-5644.