Campbell Grace Hoyt was born in 2006, the youngest child of Robin and Greg Hoyt. Caitlin and Caroline were thrilled to have a little sister. When Campbell was just three years old, she was taken to the local emergency room for a high fever and admitted to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with anaplastic ependymoma, a rare form of brain/spine cancer. In her short life, Campbell underwent eight brain surgeries, developed bacterial meningitis (as a result of one of her treatments for brain cancer) had eight brain tumors, five spinal tumors, one spinal surgery, a total of 116 rounds of radiation therapy, countless CT scans and MRIs. She was treated by specialists around the world including The Valerie Fund at Morristown Memorial, The Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston Children’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center , St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and the Personalized Medicine Program at Tufts Floating Hospital for Children. These treatments kept Campbell away from home for countless days, weeks and even months.
Though the cancer fighting drugs helped slow (and in some cases stop new tumors) the growth of some of the existing tumors, those same drugs took a huge toll on Campbell’s little body. She contracted scoliosis and had to wear a full body brace, even while sleeping. Her vertebrae weakened due to the proton beam radiation and her bones were too fragile to risk surgical intervention. By November 2013, Campbell could no longer participate in the ballet classes or hippotherapy that she loved because of the fractured vertebrae.
In January 2014, Campbell’s neuro-surgeon, Dr. Jeffrey Greenfield, with the help of his partner, Dr. Mark Souwedaine, attempted Campbell’s fifth brain surgery to remove the two most life threatening tumors, residing near her brain stem. The surgery was successful, with all of one tumor removed completely with only a sliver remaining in an inoperable area. The goal at that time was to use ground breaking research methods being utilized in Dr. Greenfield’s lab to deeply analyze the genetics of Campbell’s recurrent tumors. This genetic make-up information would help guide treatment choices to finally kill that little sliver remaining.
Although the surgery was successful, again, collateral damage occurred with two permanently damaged cranial nerves. Campbell now had vision problems and learning delays requiring home instruction rather than being in school with her friends. Ependymoma had stolen yet another piece of her happiness.
Cam participated in further experimental therapies with the help of Dr. Greenfield and her neuro-oncology team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, led by Dr. Yasmin Khakoo, as they continued to battle the recurring ependymoma in Cam’s body. Campbell and her team fought bravely, and never stopped fighting until there were no more options. In late July, 2014, they began yet another experimental therapy. Sadly, the disease was growing at a rate faster than any therapy could stop. Cam, an 8 year old rising third grader, lost her life to this horrible disease on August 21st, 2014 at 11:55PM, surrounded by her mother, father, two sisters and the family dog, Storm, laying at her feet.
Campbell loved to paint (our TCF butterfly is painted by Cam), play with Barbies, take ballet classes, ride horses, watch movies, play dress-up and listen to One Direction – normal childhood activities. She adored her sisters (her girlies) and they her. Even while sick herself, Campbell had a heart full of compassion. She loved helping others, often being asked by Child Life to help calm another child’s fears. Cam made a video at St. Jude about losing your hair. She was known for easily identifying a nervous patient in the playroom and walking over to talk to them, to tell them “It’s going to be okay.” Shortly before her 7th birthday Campbell had the flu and was on isolation at Sloan-Kettering. She and her mother were passing the hours in isolation getting chemo planning her upcoming birthday party. The sweet girl asked if she could have a Birthday Bake Sale to help the put smiles on the faces of the other kids at Sloan-Kettering. Campbell’s Birthday Bake Sale raised an astounding $5,651 dollars for the Joy Fund at Sloan. This is Campbell’s legacy – helping others. This is how she lived. She was an amazing child. Even when she was feeling her worst, she always put others before herself. It is because of this that Campbell’s tumors were donated to the Children’s Brain Tumor Project (link to CBTP page) for research after she passed. Her legacy of helping others lives on even in her death.
Her story touched the hearts of thousands, whether they knew her personally or not. Her legacy is the Team Campbell Foundation, which was established to help others like her, along with their families and friends. Throughout Cam’s journey, she and her family continued to search for the next treatment, the possible cure, never losing hope. They did this with the continual support from those around them and with the Foundation, the Hoyts hope that other families will also have that support.
For more details about Cam’s fight, please view our blog– a chronological diary of her journey through the eyes of her family.