CCA kindergartener Bindi Folcomer masters ABCs while battling brain tumor
Mom says CCA's flexibility keeps 6-year-old daughter engaged with learning despite health challenges.
Melissa Miller will never forget the day her 3-year-old daughter, Bindi Folcomer, was medically evacuated by helicopter to Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey for emergency brain surgery.
Miller said signs of Bindi's illness started small.
“She was left-handed, and I noticed that she was using her right hand," said Miller, who lives in York County. “When I would put things into her left hand, it was kind of like she started struggling a little bit.”
It was on a family vacation to the beach in South Carolina that Miller noticed other troubling symptoms. Bindi started dragging her left foot while walking on the boardwalk, and she favored the right side of her body when swimming.
A medical exam when the family returned home led them to a hospital emergency room in York, where a CT scan showed a "very large" tumor crowding the little girl's brain. It’s difficult for Miller to recount the moment when doctors said Bindi needed to leave for Hershey immediately.
“They wouldn’t let me go with her,” Miller said, “and she just looked at me and said, ‘It’s OK, Mom, they’re going to take care of me. I’ll see you at the building.’”
That fearless attitude didn’t surprise Bindi's mother.
“She’s always been very strong and very tough, and she just goes with the flow of everything," Miller said. "She doesn’t fight it.”
Bindi's surgery was a success, and doctors removed nearly all of the tumor threatening her life. After an agonizing wait, the family received good news — it wasn’t cancer. It was a slow-growing and treatable condition.
Bindi is doing so well, in fact, that Penn State Children's Hospital featured a story about Bindi's medical journey that aired May 11 on ABC27 in Harrisburg.
Miller said Bindi’s recovery from the surgery was remarkable.
“She was running down the hallway two days after her first surgery,” Miller said. “Our lives never changed. She never was compromised. She didn’t have to go through physical therapy — her balance, nothing is different.”
Doctors prescribed a year of monthly chemotherapy treatments to shrink the remaining portion of the tumor. The family settled back into normal life and began to think about kindergarten the following year.
Miller said she had planned to home-school Bindi but, after exploring her options, decided CCA was the best fit for the family.
“I felt comfortable right from the start,” Miller said, praising the professionalism of staff members she’s worked with at CCA.
During the summer before she entered kindergarten, doctors discovered Bindi’s tumor was growing again. She had to undergo a second brain surgery — a week before school started.
Miller said she wasn’t sure if Bindi would be able to handle school at that point, but thanks in part to the flexibility of CCA’s program, Bindi loves kindergarten and is doing well.
“She is so smart and has such a great memory," Miller said. "She got right into it and does everything on her own. She’s a reader, a writer, she can add large problems. ... I’m proud of her.”
As a Learning Coach, Miller said, CCA’s structure has helped Bindi stay on track despite trips to Hershey for medical appointments and treatments.
“I’m able to work ahead,” Miller said. "If I know she has a doctor’s appointment next week, I’m able to work her ahead one assignment at a time and then she can take that day off.”
Miller also likes being able to take Bindi’s work with them.
“I love how flexible our schedules can be from day to day," Miller said. "As a parent, I am able to monitor and be a part of her learning schedule and I couldn't be more grateful."
Bindi’s prognosis is good. Doctors say there’s a good chance the tumor has stopped growing and will disappear completely.
“They think she has a great story, and a good success, and they wanted to do a documentary to give other families hope,” Miller said.
Bindi’s photo will appear in magazines and on billboards for the health care system.