Cancer: Meera Leister's Story - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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Meera Leister's Story

Age 4, Chicago, IL

RIC patient Meera LeisterMeera was like any other little 3-year-old girl. She loved cupcakes, the beach, dancing, and playing anything Disney with her family and friends. However, one day her parents noticed that she was having trouble with balance, climbing stairs, and walking in a straight line. She was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor next to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls muscle coordination. She had surgery to remove the tumor and started an intense course of chemotherapy immediately afterward. As a result of the cancer-fighting treatments, Meera suffered major gross motor deficits, speech and sight deficits.

“She basically couldn’t sit up on her own,” said Daniel Leister, Meera’s father. “Her balance was shot and she had a lot of weakness, especially on her right side.”

Her cancer team referred Meera to RIC for rehabilitation to help her regain some of the functions she had lost. Meera spent three months as an inpatient at RIC, working on her physical recovery, while at the same time receiving chemotherapy treatments.

“The therapists are so warm and loving with Meera,” said Emily Marlow, Meera’s mom. “I'd say half the battle is knowing kid psychology and they always manage to motivate her.”

In her ongoing fight against cancer, Meera has endured three stem cell
transplants and a course of proton radiation therapy. Meera’s care continues at RIC via RIC’s DayRehab program, an intensive outpatient program designed for intensive, frequent therapies in an outpatient setting. Therapists continue to work with her on walking, balance, writing, and independence.

“Meera can walk with a walker and can now write and draw,” said Meera’s dad. “She’s even a bit ambidextrous now.”

RIC’s DayRehab therapists are working with Meera to help her accomplish her next goal – to go to kindergarten in the fall.

“We are so grateful to the therapists for their expertise in helping Meera, and also for their savvy ability to teach me exactly what they're doing so that I can carry on at home,” said Meera’s mom.