It started with little things.
“She was really pale and not herself and, out of the blue, she developed night terrors,” said Marcia Jacobs of the symptoms her daughter Anjuli began to experience in May 2000, six months before the little girl’s fourth birthday.
Lethargy followed, along with difficulty eating, eye problems and headaches. Then, the symptoms grew worse. Anjuli, an even-tempered blonde sprite who lived for tea parties, ponies and princesses, began to have temper tantrums. She also started vomiting, tripping and falling. Soon, she couldn’t walk a straight line.
Jacobs took her daughter to several doctors, each of whom offered different diagnoses: a stomach virus, strep throat, an eye condition known as Duane’s syndrome. But after an ER visit and an MRI in October 2000, the devastating truth was revealed: Anjuli had brainstem glioma, a rare, deadly and inoperable tumor.
“I didn’t even know kids got brain tumors,” said Jacobs of the day she heard the news. “I thought it was something only old people got. The world just went white.” Jacobs took Anjuli to Seattle Children’s for treatment. There, she met Dr. Jim Olson, a pediatric brain tumor specialist and researcher at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
“Dr. Olson was calm and caring and totally genuine,” said Jacobs. “He wasn’t wearing a white coat. He didn’t just launch into doctor speak. He was like a normal person.” Olson, who’s treated children with brain tumors for more than 20 years, said he immediately felt a connection with the 4-year-old.
“She was an adorable child,” he said. “Like every child I take care of, I fell in love with her.”
Most people who came into contact with the little girl did.
“She was this little ray of sunshine,” remembers her mother. “Beautiful and radiant. And she had a beautiful spirit, too. Everyone doted on her.”
A girly-girl who loved dancing, dress-up and Disney princesses, Anjuli had “piles of friends,” many of whom would line up to give her hugs whenever her mother dropped her off at day care.
“They’d mob her,” said Jacobs. “It would happen a couple of times a week. The teachers said they’d never seen anything like it.”
Anjuli also loved helping out in the garden, often eating cherry tomatoes right off the vine.
“She loved to eat healthy food,” said Jacobs. “Broccoli was her favorite. She would want it in the morning sometimes. I’d use it as a bribe. ‘If you’ll eat a little more chicken, you can have some broccoli.’” She was also very loving, said her mother.
“She would put kisses in people’s pockets,” she said, “She’d blow them into someone’s pocket and say, ‘Kisses for later.’”