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Mary Bridge Children’s team is ‘family’ to a cancer survivor with Down syndrome

In 2012, Alexis was diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at the age of three.



By Kortney Scroger

The Langford family became acquainted with Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in 2012 when their oldest daughter, Alexis, was diagnosed with Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) at the age of three.

Alexis was treated by Robert Irwin, MD, who Alexis’ mom, Tammy, calls “a saint.” She has been in remission since 2014.

In addition to her cancer treatment, Alexis has had multiple surgeries that are a result of loose muscles and ligaments caused by Down syndrome.

“Alexis’ hip was dislocated at birth. Since then, she’s had all kinds of surgeries,” Tammy says. “From reconstruction surgeries to tendon transfers and heel chord lengthening, we’ve been through it all with Mary Bridge Children’s and Dr. Nick Rajacich.”

The Langford’s live in Olympia, so they occasionally go to the Mary Bridge Children’s outpatient center close to their home for procedures like port placement and removal during chemotherapy. Tammy says that no matter which Mary Bridge Children’s location they visit, they feel like family.

“The doctors and the nurses are so knowledgeable, so helpful and they care,” Tammy says with tears in her eyes.

I’ve told both Dr. Rajacich and Dr. Irwin that whether they like it or not, they are part of our family, and we are part of theirs.”

According to Nicholas Rajacich, MD, the feeling is mutual.

“Alexis is a little warrior. She’s had more than six surgeries with me — nothing slows her down,” Dr. Rajacich says. “It’s a joy to help families like the Langford’s.”

Donor support has helped the Langford’s along the way, offering a bright light during potentially scary moments. The Child Life Services team helps prep Alexis for every surgery and the toy box provides Alexis with a prize for every few “pokes.”

“I would like to thank the donors from the bottom of my heart. They may not truly understand what the ‘little things’ mean to our families,” Tammy says. “Even down to the toys that were in the treasure box. She would be able to turn in her tokens to get something. That was a highlight. And, it wasn't something that we could recreate for her, because that was a special moment in the clinic that helped her through what she was going through.”

Despite having a rough start, Alexis loves Mary Bridge Children’s and has been a fighter through it all. According to her mom, she encourages herself during her appointments.

“I don't have to hold her hand anymore. She'll sit there in the chair with her arm out. She'll try and pump herself up by saying, ‘Woo, that's fun’ and laugh. A little tear might stream down, but when she knows that it's over, she goes, ‘All done? That's it? All better now!’ So yeah, she's a trooper.”

Alexis is now 11 years old, and Mary Bridge Children’s will always be a part of her life whether it’s visiting her gastroenterologist or her twice a year visits to make sure she remains in remission.

Her favorite pastime at Mary Bridge Children’s is cracking jokes with her doctors.

“She loves, loves, loves to give the doctors a hard time,” Tammy says. “She thinks Dr. Irwin is the funniest man on earth. So, she loves to joke with him. There's one time, not too long ago, Dr. Rajacich walked into the room, and she goes, ‘Oh no, you again?’ And I was shocked, but he thinks it's hilarious. Of course…she does too.”


Join us on December 5 for Mary Bridge Children’s Festival of Trees virtual Gala for an evening of entertainment and a chance to be a champion for patients like Alexis. Reserve your spot at festivaloftreestacoma.org.