• Lydia Lee celebrated our hospital’s 1991 grand opening with her father and Michael Link, MD.
  • One of our first patients, Lydia was undergoing treatment for a rare form of leukemia when our hospital opened.
  • Lydia, now 31, on her wedding day with her husband, Daniel.
  • Lydia and Daniel are just weeks away from welcoming their first baby, a girl.
  • “I am so grateful for my growing family,” Lydia says. “It’s amazing how dedicated people are to supporting Packard Children’s and the patients. Their support changes people’s lives.”
  • UPDATE: Congrats to Lydia on the arrival of her baby girl!
 

 

Opening the Doors to a Brighter Future

Friday, May 27, 2016

You made cancer a distant memory for Lydia.

On a sunny morning in June 1991, 6-year-old Lydia Lee rode in an ambulance to the brand new Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Wearing her hot pink “I Opened the Doors” t-shirt and a colorful hat, Lydia was carried through the front doors by her doctor, Michael Link, MD.

“I was greeted with a giant stuffed bear and was excited that each of the rooms had their own TV,” she fondly recalls.

At the time, Lydia was battling a rare form of acute lymphoblastic leukemia with a very poor prognosis. She became one of the first patients to undergo a more intensive chemotherapy to treat the disease more aggressively, receiving high doses of chemo over just a few months rather than the standard two years.

“She was almost like a test case,” says her mother, Joanne. “It was a new treatment, and my husband, David, and I had to trust the doctors. We told them, ‘You should do whatever you think is the best for her.’"

“It was very painful,” Lydia says. “My hair fell out, I was throwing up, and I went from 60 pounds down to 30.”

But it worked. By December 1991, Lydia was in complete remission.

“Children like Lydia are one of the main reasons Packard Children’s was built,” says Link.

“We were treating desperately sick patients at the old children’s hospital. If they needed intensive care, we had to transport them across campus to Stanford Hospital. It was like being a tightrope walker without a net. To finally have a full-service children’s hospital was enormously comforting.”

In appreciation for the care Lydia received, her parents endowed the Lydia J. Lee Professorship in Pediatric Oncology at Stanford in 2002. Its first holder was Link, who continues to care for children with cancer at Packard Children’s.

Today, Link proudly reports that the type of leukemia that Lydia had now has a much better prognosis.

The clinical trial that she participated in was a major step forward in treating the disease, and more than 90 percent of children with this form of leukemia are now cured.

Today, says Lydia, cancer is a distant memory.

Now 31 years old, she is pursuing a successful career in public relations and enjoying life in Los Angeles with her husband, Daniel.

And (as of this writing) Lydia and Daniel are just weeks away from welcoming their first baby, a girl.

“I am so grateful for my growing family,” Lydia says. “It’s amazing how dedicated people are to supporting Packard Children’s and the patients. Their support changes people’s lives.”

UPDATE: In May, Lydia and her husband, Daniel, welcomed their healthy baby girl, Paige, weighing 8 pounds and measuring 21 inches. Congratulations to Lydia and her family!

This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Lucile Packard Children's News.