After eight years treating Louisville girl, glioma care team is confident about her prognosis

For Savannah Garner’s glioma care team, the goal is to continue on her current treatment path toward the end of high school, when the chance of tumors growing again greatly diminishes.

Savannah Garner is a trouper. That is the biggest takeaway from the people closest to her.

Norton Children’s Cancer Institute

Many specialists working together to continue a long legacy of providing sophisticated treatment and advancing knowledge of pediatric cancer care

The fifth-grade girl from Louisville has been living with a medical condition for most of her life. Savannah was diagnosed at age 2 1/2, and for eight years, she has undergone treatment at Norton Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. She is “just rolling through the punches,” said Savannah’s mom, Danira Garner.

Savannah has a low-grade glioma involving her eye path and optic track. That diagnosis typically tends to be a stubborn one, but her hematologist/oncologist, Michael Angelo C. Huang, M.D., Norton Children’s Cancer Institute, said she has made serious progress.

“She’s very vocal about her care and very attentive — she knows her doctors, knows her medicines,” Danira said. “This is her normal.”

Danira remembers the day her daughter was diagnosed as if it were yesterday.

“It was like my heart was ripped out,” Danira said.

Savannah needed to start chemotherapy and then begin an ongoing management program to prevent the growth of tumors, a common effect of her disease. The initial shock made way for hope and then determination, and those attributes have paid off in a big way.

These days, Savannah’s care team is very confident in her prognosis. The goal is to continue on her current treatment path toward the end of high school, when the chance of tumors growing again greatly diminishes.

“She’s always upbeat,” Dr. Huang said. “She has a good understanding of the disease. She knows that we’re working hard to help her have a high quality of life. Danira and Savannah, they have great trust in our program.”

Savannah is now on targeted, localized treatment with “a head full of hair,” Danira said.

Savannah has an MRI scan every three months to keep track of her development.

For Danira, the team from Norton Children’s Cancer Institute has played a big part in her daughter’s ongoing high spirits. The team includes Dr. Huang, whom Savannah calls “Dr. Mikey,” as well as an eye doctor, neurologist, endocrinologist, neurosurgeon and others. Their work obviously has been vital to Savannah’s improvement, but so, too, has been the relationship the Garners built with the team.

“They are absolutely wonderful,” Danira said. “They walk beside us when we need that. They have gone above and beyond to push us, to lead us. They stepped up to that plate. She knows everyone so well and trusts them so much, and so do I.”

That’s a big reason why Savannah just “keeps on keeping on, living her normal,” as Danira said. Her classmates just march on in lockstep, enjoying Savannah for being Savannah, nothing else.

“She’s never really been affected in any way,” Danira said. “These kids have known her since preschool. They all seem to be aware of everything she’s going through. Even when she had barely any hair from her treatments, it’s just always been just how it is.”

And that’s the way it should be for a cat-loving, happy-go-lucky 10-year-old who loves telling jokes — “some good, some not so good,” Danira said, laughing.

To get to that point has been a team effort between Norton Children’s Cancer Institute and the Garner family, and they will continue walking together and working together.

“We’re always working with families, communicating every step of the way so they’re a part of the decision-making process and everything involved,” Dr. Huang said. “That’s how it should be.”

Cancer care at Norton Children’s

Winning the battle against pediatric cancer takes a team approach — a team with the strength of many disciplines working together to continue a long legacy of providing advanced treatment.

Our cancer care program is one of the oldest oncology programs in the U.S. that has been continuously accredited by the American College of Surgeons’ Commission on Cancer. Backed by nearly 60 years of pediatric expertise, we have a proven team of more than 200 leading cancer specialists, including oncologists, surgeons, nurses, social workers, chaplains, behaviorists, therapists and pharmacists.

This skilled, multidisciplinary team is entirely focused on the needs of your child and family.