Cancer exposes childhood brain tumor patient to a world of art

When 5-year old Kloe Ponce started having severe headaches and
experiencing sensitivity to bright lights and sounds, her family never
suspected it was a childhood brain tumor.

Kloe’s mom sought answers during visits to urgent care centers and
hospital emergency rooms near her home in Corpus Christi, Texas. “We
knew something was wrong, but we followed recommendations to change
her diet, increase her fluid intake and even monitor her blood sugar,”
says Kloe’s mom, Maryjessie Soliz. But the episodes continued.

Maryjessie voiced her concerns again at Kloe’s 7-year checkup. The
pediatrician reviewed her chart and discovered that her growth was
stunted. “He told me that Kloe had stopped growing, and she was the
same size as a 4-year-old,” Maryjessie recalls.

A childhood brain tumor diagnosis

This discovery, combined with Kloe’s aggressive headaches, prompted
the pediatrician to refer the family to a neurologist for testing. An
MRI revealed a mass in her brain — a germinoma brain tumor. The tumor was wrapped around her
pituitary gland, which was affecting her growth.

“It was scary to learn my child had a brain tumor, but a relief to
finally have an answer after almost two years,” Maryjessie says. “When
the headaches came, it was like her body would shut down, and we
didn’t know why.”

In October 2016, Kloe underwent a craniotomy to remove the tumor. Because of the
tumor’s location, doctors couldn’t remove it all. They recommended
radiation therapy to kill the rest of the tumor.

Childhood brain tumor treatment at MD Anderson

When Maryjessie began looking at radiation therapy options, several
medical professionals and friends recommended MD Anderson. Though she
 was worried about traveling back-and-forth to Houston, Maryjessie was
even more concerned about the possible side effects Kloe would face.
Weighing her options, Maryjessie chose MD
. “It wasn’t a hard decision. I wanted my daughter to
have the best possible care.”  

In February 2017, Kloe started treatment at MD Anderson Children’s
Cancer Hospital
, undergoing chemotherapy and proton therapy to destroy the remainder of the
tumor. In June, Kloe rang the bell at MD
to signify the end of her treatment. In July, she rang
the bell again to celebrate an even more significant milestone —
clear scans.

“Kloe was very insistent about ringing the bell after her scans came
back showing no signs of cancer,” Maryjessie says. “Aside from the
days she attended the hospital’s art classes, ringing the bell was one
of her happiest days at MD Anderson.”

Into the light: a gift of art revealed

During her treatment at the Children’s Cancer Hospital, Kloe had
some challenging days, but she remained upbeat. In fact, her bubbly
personality captured the attention of the MD
 Children’s Art Project.

“Kloe was always so happy during art class,” says Kasey Marsh, who
coordinates therapeutic art classes for MD
pediatric cancer patients. “She also was very
independent with her drawings and had her own style.”

Kloe’s colorful drawing of an alligator is one of two designs
featured on a new line of women’s pajama sets and night shirts
available through MD Anderson Children’s
Art Project
. Children’s Art Project offers merchandise inspired
by the artwork of pediatric patients at MD
. The products are available at partner retail stores,
MD Anderson Volunteer
Services Gift Shops
and online.
Net proceeds support patient programs for children with cancer.

“One of Kloe’s most memorable experiences is drawing and painting
with Kasey at the hospital,” Maryjessie says. Kloe continues to draw,
and has her heart set on owning a dress shop where she plans to sell
dresses and her artwork. For now, though, she’s excited that her
alligator art is making its way into others’ homes.

“She is so happy that people will have a chance to see her alligator
design through Children’s Art Project,” Maryjessie says.

the MD Anderson Children’s Art Project
to purchase products featuring Kloe’s art and
support patient programs for children with cancer.

Request an appointment at MD Anderson online or by
calling 1-877-632-6789.