Teri’s Notebook: Local doctor’s diligence detects brain tumors

When Athena Cox’s son, Anthony Jr., started getting headaches this summer, she took him to Dr. Farnaz Khankhanian at Eagle Vision to get checked for glasses.

“Dr. K saw swelling behind the nerves of both of his eyes,” Athena said. “She recommended that we got to our local hospital for an MRI. The MRI revealed a big mass on our son’s brain.”

That night, Anthony was taken by a medical helicopter more than 200 miles away to the Children’s Hospital Oakland, where he had a 16-hour surgery to remove the tumor from his brain.

“We learned the following week from the pathologist that the tumor is a choroid plexus carcinoma, which is cancerous and has a 100 percent chance of growing again, with the chance of being in-operable,” Athena said. “He is undergoing chemotherapy monthly in Oakland with possible radiation to hopefully get rid of any other cancel cells that may have spread.”

Athena credits Khankhanian’s foresight for catching the tumor. And it’s not the first time it’s happened. In her 25 years of practice, she said, she’s found two tumors in Carson City children in the last five years.

Kristy LaVey got a call from the nurse at her daughter, Savannah’s, school in June of 2010 telling her Savannah’s eye had crossed and she was having difficulty with her vision.

“My daughter came home from school and said her head hurt,” Kristy said. “Her eye had all of a sudden just went in towards her nose. My heart sank deep down. I knew something wasn’t right.”

After calling around, she got an appointment at Eagle Vision, where Khankhanian recommended she take the little girl to the emergency room.

“I was sick with fright,” Kristy recalled. “I hit every red light, I couldn’t talk. I was sick and weak all at once.”

Then her daughter asked, “Am I going to die?”

“Before she was able to say another word, I told her whatever happens, we are in this together,” Kristy said. “What happens to her will also happen to me. I will never leave her side. I told her not to be afraid I will not her die, I promise you that.

“The fear in her eyes relaxed.”

They were flown to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., where Savannah was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma grade 4 brain cancer.

Khankhanian was credited with saving the girl’s life.

“The surgeon called me the next day,” Khankhanian said. “He told me that had I not found it, we would have lost her.”

The significance of that will always be with Kristy and her family.

“I don’t know were we would be today if we didn’t end up in Farnaz’s hands,” Kristy said. “She knew I was uninsured and still went the extra mile and saved my daughter’s life. She is and will forever be a angel in our eyes.”


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