Year-old cancer survivor charms D.C. lawmakers

Addie Vogl and her parents, from Portsmouth, take part in a nationwide conference.

01:00 AM EDT on Friday, June 18, 2004

BY JOHN E. MULLIGAN
Journal Washington Bureau

 

WASHINGTON -- The gravest of her medical crises behind her, toddler Addison Vogl took a star turn in the capital this week as a living exemplar of the fight against juvenile cancer.

"She was the hit" of the Cure Search Gold Ribbon Days, U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy said of the 15-month-old Portsmouth girl, who attended the Washington conference of cancer survivors, their families, medical teams and other supporters.

"Always the hit, and maybe she knew it. That's what scares me," Stacey Vogl joked yesterday as her daughter mugged with the Rhode Island congressman, clapping her hands and squirming in a yellow sundress.

Vogl's mock concern about spoiling the child with the attention of high-ranking public officials was a welcome change from the mortal fear that has gripped the family since Addie was diagnosed with cancer last summer.

Addie had already survived the medical challenge of being born three-months premature in March 2003. She lived her first three months in the hospital. She had been home with Stacey, her father, Michael, and 12-year-old brother, Taylor, for only about two months when she was diagnosed with a rare type of liver cancer.

Since then Addie has had most of her liver removed, has had an operation to repair some of her organs, and has taken a course of chemotherapy -- with some permanent hearing loss possible among the side effects.

Nor is Addie guaranteed long-term survival. "There's a 30-percent chance of her relapsing in the next one to three years, which they don't tell you about until after the cancer therapy is complete," Stacey Vogl said.

Meanwhile, Addie must undergo a variety of therapy, for hearing and speech and to acquire the natural impulse to eat -- another casualty of her illness and its cure. Addie is nourished with formula taken through a tube implanted in her stomach.

This week the Vogls have swapped stories and survival tips with other families of cancer victims from around the country -- including several other Rhode Islanders -- who held a convention in Washington. Among their activities were meetings and lobbying members of Congress and other officials for additional federal aid to combat cancer.

Despite the daunting array of problems, her parents focused this week on the fact that their daughter is alive and kicking -- literally -- not to mention babbling, pushing herself to her feet, and waving her hands enthusiastically.

Not every family of young cancer victims is so lucky, Michael and Stacey Vogl noted during their conversation with Kennedy in his office yesterday morning.