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Blakely Estevez Celebrates a Year of Remission After Wilms Tumor

Blakely Estevez Celebrates a Year of Remission After Wilms Tumor

Married for a year, Abigail Estevez and her husband, Blake, were ecstatic when their beautiful baby girl, Blakely Elizabeth, was born on April 19, 2021. 

Abigail, 28, explained they had been trying to get pregnant so finding out they were successful was the exciting start of her “totally normal pregnancy.” And, though Blakely was breech and born via Cesarean section, she was full-term and healthy. 

But, a few months later, at the end of August of 2021, Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana. Blake, 33, a firefighter, headed out on the road with other first responders in the region to help families hit hard by the Category 4 hurricane. 

Abigail and the baby evacuated to her grandparents’ house in Georgia until electricity was restored to their Norco, La. home. “We came home and found the storm damage. The house had to be gutted. I slept on a mattress on the floor in the only room in the house with four walls –the living room–and we had a crib there, too,” Abigail recalled. “And, we were eating food provided by the Red Cross because I had no kitchen. It was such a mess.” 

Still she said she felt blessed, noting while houses can be fixed, her family hadn’t been hurt in the storm. She even went back to work as an occupational therapy assistant. 

One day in November, about seven months after Blakely was born, Abigail became concerned. “I really just thought the baby was constipated, but I felt something when I was touching her tummy,” she said. “I started Googling what could be wrong and everything I found sounded horrible. I tried very hard to talk myself out of thinking it was something bad.” 

Two months later, at the baby’s nine-month checkup with the pediatrician, Abigail could no longer look the other way. The doctor felt the mass Mom had been feeling and said Blakely needed an abdominal ultrasound. The family traveled to Children’s Hospital New Orleans (CHNOLA) for the scan on Jan. 27, 2022. 

Shortly after the scan, a team of CHNOLA doctors, led by pediatric oncologist Dana LeBlanc, MD, joined the Estevez family in a consultation room. 

“I was crying so hard. I could feel that the word ‘cancer’ was about to come out of her mouth,” remembered Abigail. “I was thinking, “please don’t say it, please don’t say it.” But Dr. LeBlanc confirmed Blakely had cancer. And we had to go from there.” 

Blakely was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a kidney cancer that mainly affects children. It’s a rare condition, also known as nephroblastoma, but it is the most common kidney cancer affecting young children. Wilms tumor usually occurs in one kidney, but it can also affect both kidneys. 

In Blakely’s case, only her left kidney was impacted by Wilms tumor, but doctors did spot a small lesion on her right kidney during an MRI. This lesion is called a nephrogenic rest, known to be a precursor to Wilms tumor. The multidisciplinary team of physicians determined it was best for the baby to undergo chemotherapy to shrink the tumor and then to undergo surgery to remove it. They also planned to locate the suspicious spot on the right kidney and remove it, too. 

While she was relieved to hear that the prognosis for most children diagnosed with Wilms tumor is good, Abigail felt like her world was spinning out of control. The next couple of months were focused on chemotherapy appointments and gearing up for Blakely’s surgery. 

After six weeks of chemo, doctors said the tumor shrank by 70 percent and it was time for surgery. On March 24, 2022, little Blakely underwent surgery to have the tumor and her left kidney removed. 

“The day of the surgery was rough. We didn’t know if they could get it all,” Abigail said, noting surgeon Fabienne Gray, MD, and urologist Aaron Martin, MPH, MD, spoke with her and Blake right before the surgery. 

“When the surgery was over, they came back to tell us they thought they got everything. We were so relieved,” she continued. “When we saw our baby, we were afraid to hold her. Finally, they took out the catheter and we held her. I felt like I couldn’t put her down.” 

After surgery, Blakely resumed chemotherapy to ensure that any remaining microscopic tumor cells were eliminated. Doctors discussed that this would provide the best chance to remain cancer free once her treatment was completed. 

Blakely began chemotherapy again and continued the treatment through the middle of that summer. 

Finally, scans and blood work completed at the end of the final chemo round brought smiles all around. “On Sept. 1, we got the remission notice and I don’t think I’ve ever felt more relief in my life,” Mom said. “We were so happy that our prayers were answered. We finally felt like we could have a normal life.” 

That being said, Abigail has her moments of doubt. “I worry that the cancer could come back. 

It’s a feeling that never quite goes away. Every time she is in pain my brain immediately thinks ‘tumor,’” she said. “The doctors at CHNOLA have done so much to reassure me. They have told me it’s normal to feel concerned in this way. They have reassured me and validated my fears. They have never hesitated to answer all my questions, no matter how random they’ve been.” Abigail and Blake have nothing but praise for Blakely’s doctors and nurses at CHNOLA. “They are very personable and they made us feel like our family was in great hands throughout all of this ordeal,” Abigail said. “They are so confident in their abilities and certainly have a reason to be. Everything about CHNOLA feels very reassuring.” 

Abigail wanted to make special mention of nurses Beth Bemoruelle and Shelby Story. “They are both truly angels. They took care of Blakely like she was their own and they taught us how to care for her surgical scar,” Mom continued. “And, like the doctors, they constantly reassured us that we would be okay – that Blakely was going to be okay.” 

To celebrate one year in remission, the Estevez family – with 2 ½ Blakely and baby sister Murphy in tow – played on Orange Beach and splashed in the waves. “We were so excited to bring Blakely to a place where she could really enjoy life as a kid,” Abigail said. 

Blakely loves to “sing and dance, is obsessed with princesses, loves to read and she is the most caring big sister,” Mom said, noting she loves to act like a little mama and hold Murphy. 

“It’s amazing to look at her now because she has grown so much. You would never know anything was ever wrong unless you looked at her scar. She is thriving, she is so smart and so happy,” Abigail said. “It’s crazy to think about all we were going through and where we are now with two healthy girls who are full of giggles and mischief. We are so blessed with two happy, 

silly girls.” 

To learn more about the Children’s Hospital New Orleans oncology services, visit