Sloane Davisson

sloane image
Courtney and Sloane Davisson, Fishers, Ind.

Nov. 21, 2017

“Yesterday was the hardest day of our lives. One cannot be prepared to sit in a doctor’s office and be told their child has cancer. Our child? Our sweet, spunky 15-month-old has cancer? The pit in my stomach is real? Can you start over? I'm suffocating, we're suffocating…Yesterday was a really, really hard and long day.” 

-Courtney Davisson, “Sweet & Strong” blog 

Just weeks before Courtney Davisson wrote those words, she and husband Austin had started noticing that their youngest daughter, Sloane, seemed to be developing a lazy eye. When Courtney returned from a trip with friends, she could tell something was wrong.

“I could actually see through her left eye, I could see something in there,” the Fishers mom recalls. “Of course, I got on Google and already had her diagnosed with cancer in 15 minutes. It was terrifying.”

The official diagnosis came shortly after: retinoblastoma, a type of cancer that begins in the retina, at the back of the eye, most commonly in children.

“The tumor in her left eye was quite advanced,” recalls David Plager, M.D., Director of Pediatric Ophthalmology at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. 

Nov. 29, 2017

“What I learned in those first few hours, first few days, is that my body would keep going.  It took me a while to realize I was still breathing, my lungs just knew how to inhale and knew exactly when my mind needed a very slow exhale…I relearned this same lesson last night when Sloane's chemotherapy started. I held that baby girl tight to my chest for four straight hours as she innocently slept away. The nurses kept telling me how great she was doing, and I'd let another tear fall and gently nod my head, ‘Thank you.’”

-Courtney Davisson, “Sweet & Strong” blog

Sloane started chemotherapy within a week of her diagnosis. She had her first round during a three-day stay at Riley, and five more rounds at home. 

Courtney and Austin didn’t know exactly how chemo would work with a toddler. How would they keep her busy? Would she have to sit still? Hardly. Sloane got to explore, play and even dance in the Riley oncology playroom.

“Sloane is very active. She always enjoyed time in the playroom, particularly riding around in the toy cars,” says Riley Pediatric Oncologist Steven Rhodes, M.D. “She has such a beautiful smile and blue eyes that light up the room. It was a joy to watch her bond with the medical team.”

Dec. 30, 2017

“I do really hate cancer. I hate it for my daughter, and I hate it for everyone else who has to come in contact with it…But as much as I hate all of this, I really love what I’m witnessing. A community that has totally come together in faith and prayer and love for us, for Sloane, and for all of our family.”

-Courtney Davisson, “Sweet & Strong” blog

As Sloane continued chemo treatments, her parents went back to work (Courtney cutting back to part-time) and family members rotated caregiving duties for Sloane. Friends supplied support, home-cooked meals and care for Sloane’s older sister, Audrey. Austin and Courtney had Sloane baptized and leaned into their faith. 

“What’s unique about eye cancer is that we can actually see the tumors inside the eye, so we’ll keep monitoring them," says Dr. Plager. 

Sloane’s last chemo treatment was in early May. A follow-up exam weeks later showed good progress, but later exams revealed setbacks, and her left eye could not be saved.

The Davisson family knows their journey is not over. Retinoblastoma requires regular, lifelong monitoring. It also increases a child’s risk for developing other types of cancer, including brain tumors.

“There are a lot of open questions about the future. Can she see well enough? Will she need to go to a special school?” Courtney says. “Thankfully, even though she lost her hair, Sloane is just a typical almost-2-year-old. Everyone kept telling me that kids are resilient, and it’s so true.”

April 4, 2018

“This has been a very humbling experience, one I hope I never have to travel again, but one that has indeed changed my life, one that has been totally paved by prayer. I may be a little bit more jaded, a little bit more anxious, a little bit more obsessive, but I’m also a little bit more trusting, my faith is a lot stronger, my marriage is rock strong, and my family is closer than ever.”

-Courtney Davisson, “Sweet & Strong” blog

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