by Audrey Safir
During homecoming week, Lassiter students and faculty have rallied to support and fundraise for the Galloway family and Team Phoebe. In May of 2017, Phoebe Galloway was diagnosed with WAGR syndrome, a rare genetic condition affecting less than 450 worldwide. When Phoebe was born, she barely opened her eyes. They were also very dark, unusual for having parents with light eyes. Different doctors all brushed it off, saying it was normal and her eyes would change color over time. Then Phoebe started having nystagmus, which is involuntary, rapid eye movements. This made doctors think that she might have a brain tumor, so she was rushed to an eye doctor. The eye doctor discovered that Phoebe has aniridia, meaning there is no iris in her eye, only a pupil. Aniridia is closely associated with WAGR, so a genetic test was ordered. It was found that Phoebe had a mutation on chromosome 11, a deletion of the area 11p13 that causes WAGR. “That was the most devastating day,” said Mrs. Galloway. Phoebe’s diagnosis with WAGR meant that she was likely to experience the other symptoms associated with the syndrome: Wilms tumors on her kidneys, genitourinary anomalies (which she is too young to develop now), and a range of developmental delays. Phoebe had to start getting ultrasounds every 3 months to check for tumor growth on her kidneys. On one of her ultrasounds, the doctors discovered a spot on her kidney, but said it was a cyst and not a tumor. An MRI was taken, but the doctors were still unsure, so another one was ordered. At the end of August, after the second MRI, they discovered the Wilms tumor. Phoebe has now started chemotherapy. Afterwards, she will have to get surgery, and then another round of chemo.
For Mrs. Galloway, the hardest part of Phoebe’s diagnosis is not knowing what to expect for her future. However, she said there is a WAGR family Facebook community that brings together the families of people with WAGR for support and raising awareness. They have what are called “WAGR Weekends”, that different families host. Mrs. Galloway said, “I was able to meet a college student with WAGR named Jenna from North Carolina who wanted to become a special education teacher and raise awareness for WAGR. It was really encouraging to see these adults with WAGR still living their lives and having fun. I realized that no parent knows what to expect for their child. We just have to take one day at a time, an hour at a time, a minute at a time.”
The compassion shown by the Lassiter community has been overwhelming for the Galloway family. Proceeds from the buttons, bracelets, and t-shirts sold during homecoming week will be given to them. The Gofundme page has raised over $7,000. To support team Phoebe and the Galloway family, you can still purchase buttons and bracelets, or make a donation. “I feel like I’ve been here for 5 minutes and have already received so much love and support,” remarked Mrs. Galloway.
“I feel like I came to Lassiter for a reason. I can’t imagine what it would be like working somewhere else where people didn’t care so much. I don’t have words to express how much it means to me, thank you isn’t enough.”
– Mrs. Galloway
Donate to the Galloway family at https://www.gofundme.com/phabulous-phoebe.