Roxli Doss was just ten years old when she was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor. The growth was so aggressive that her parents were told she had just months to live. However, the next time doctors carried out an MRI scan on Roxli, the results were hard to comprehend.
Roxli lives in Buda, Texas, with her mom Gena and her dad Scott. Up until June 2018, she’d been just like any other young girl, loving her family, Jesus and horses the most. She was an outdoorsy youngster, who enjoyed spending time with her friends and appeared to be a perfectly average ten-year-old.
Speaking to the Austin-based TV channel KVUE in August 2018, Roxli’s dad Scott said of his daughter, “She’s very active… she is outdoors all the time. She loves jumping horses.” However, Roxli’s idyllic childhood was disrupted when she suddenly began to suffer from loss of vision and headaches.
At first, Roxli’s parents believed that she was simply suffering from a headache. However, the youngster’s symptoms soon started to intensify. Scott later explained to KVUE, “It was in early June Rox started having headaches, and the headaches developed into nausea, and she even had double vision.”
Worryingly, Roxli’s symptoms left her pediatrician stumped. As a result, she was transferred to Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, TX. And it was there that Roxli received the devastating diagnosis of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG): a highly aggressive kind of brain tumor that is often untreatable.
Roxli’s DIPG diagnosis no doubt came as a shock to her family. As such, they wanted to be certain that it was the potentially deadly cancer that they were dealing with. With that in mind, they visited four more hospitals in search of a second opinion. However, all of the doctors they visited confirmed that Roxli indeed had DIPG, and they warned her parents that there would be a cure for the tumor.
DIPG is an incredibly rare form of cancer, which usually affects children aged between five and nine years old. In fact, it is so uncommon, that only 200-300 cases of the tumor are diagnosed in children in the United States each year. It’s not known what causes the growths, which are found at the spine’s top and the brain’s bottom.
Given that DIPG tumors are found in the brain stem, they can have devastating effects on patients. As was the case with Roxi, some of the first symptoms of cancer include problems with vision and eye movements. However, other signs of the disease include difficulty walking, weakness in the limbs and facial drooping.
As DIPG tumors grow, they continue to put pressure onto the pons, the part of the brain which is responsible for a range of critical bodily functions, including sleeping, breathing and blood pressure. As a result, patients might find that as their illness progresses, they experience difficulties with their balance, eyesight, swallowing, heartbeat and breathing.
Not only does DIPG’s position in the brain stem make it particularly troublesome for patients, but it also makes the tumors incredibly difficult to treat. Being in such a critical part of the body, surgery is not a viable option in many cases of the disease. Instead, radiation and chemotherapy can be used to shrink the growths but cannot provide a permanent cure.
The Michael Mosier Defeat DIPG Foundation endeavors to find a cure for the tumors. According to the organization, radiation shrinks DIPG growths in 70 percent of cases. However, the foundation claims that the treatment only usually extends a patient’s life by three months on average.
And to make matters worse for Roxli and her family, her tumor was considered high grade. That meant that hers was one of the more aggressive strains of DIPG. Consequently, her doctors didn’t mince their words when they explained to Roxli and her family what this meant for her prognosis.
In December 2018 Roxli’s doctor and pediatric neuro-oncology expert at Dell Children’s Medical Center, Dr. Virginia Harrod, said of DIPG, “It is very rare, but when we see it, it is a devastating disease… You have decreased ability to swallow, sometimes vision loss, decreased ability to talk [and] eventually difficulty with breathing.”
Roxli’s parents were told that their daughter’s tumor was inoperable and that she had just months to live. As a result, Harrod advised Scott and Gena to make the most of the time that they had left with Roxli. Commenting on the devastating diagnosis, in August 2018 Scott told KVUE, “It was very bad… It was the worst news we could have had.”
Most people with DIPG only live for nine months after their diagnosis. Furthermore, some don’t even survive long enough to start radiation treatment. In 2018 Harrod told HuffPost that the outlook for people with the disease was “dismal.” She added, “We don’t have a cure… This is considered a terminal diagnosis.”
While Roxli’s prognosis seemed grim, her family refused to give up. The youngster started radiation immediately, undergoing the treatments six days a week for a six-week period, in the hopes of stalling the growth of her tumor. In the meantime, the Doss family also received enormous support from their community, who rallied around to arrange a benefit for Roxli.
Britany McArthur Krause was part of the team that helped to organize the fundraiser, which included a BBQ, live music, kids’ activities and auctions. A Facebook event page for the benefit read, “[Roxli’s] diagnosis has broken the hearts of our entire community.” So Britany and her associates wanted “to help Roxli and the Doss family with the catastrophic expenses that befall in these circumstances.”
Writing on Facebook, Britany and the other organizers of the benefit wrote, “The Dosses need to feel the love so we are inviting you to become part of this effort to help support them in their battle… We hope you will bring your whole family to show the Dosses your love, have some fun and to give generously to a more than worthy cause.”
Ultimately, hundreds of people attended the benefit for Roxli in the hope of raising money toward the youngster’s medical bills. Even strangers came to help the fundraising efforts. In August 2018 Doss family friend Heather Arnold told KVUE, “People are coming here for a little girl they don’t even know and just supporting and giving love to this family.”
For Roxli’s family, the support that they received in their darkest hour was much appreciated. Scott explained, “It’s a great feeling because when something like this happens to you, in the very beginning we felt so alone, but it didn’t take very long for us to realize that we’re not alone in this.”
But even with their community’s support, Roxli’s prognosis still looked bleak. Nevertheless, her parents didn’t lose hope. Scott said, “The doctors guide us, but really the true guidance that we’re looking for is from God because that’s who we need our help from right now, and we’re really just praying for a miracle.”
And it seems that their praying may have paid off. That’s because, three months into Roxli’s radiation treatment, her neurologists decided to carry out an MRI to see if the treatment was being effective. However, as they examined the results of the youngster’s scan, they just couldn’t make sense of it.
It seemed that Roxli’s tumor had all but disappeared. In December 2018 Harrod told KVUE, “When I first saw Roxli’s MRI scan, it was actually unbelievable… The tumor is undetectable on the MRI scan, which is really unusual.” Somehow, it appeared that Roxli had been miraculously cured of her DIPG.
Discussing the unexplained disappearance of Roxli’s tumor with HuffPost, Harrod revealed she’d never seen such a positive response to radiation in DIPG herself. Furthermore, she had only heard of a similar result in a handful of other cases. As such, she said the effectiveness of the treatment had been “remarkable” in Roxli’s case.
Revealing exactly what she had seen in Roxli’s MRI scans, Harrod explained, “The tumor was absent and no longer measurable… We barely saw any swelling or trace that a tumor had been there.” However, the youngster’s medical team will likely never know what really happened to the tumor.
To investigate Roxli’s recovery fully, a biopsy would need to be taken. However, given that the pre-teen’s tumor was in her brain stem, such a procedure would not be viable. As a result, experts were left with Harrod’s hunch that the positive outcome Roxli experienced was down to the specific biological composition of her tumor.
Given that doctors weren’t really sure how Roxli’s tumor had suddenly disappeared, they wanted to be sure that it really had. So to ensure they were correct, they checked the scan results once more. It turned out that the growth was still nowhere to be seen. Roxli’s cure was a medical mystery, one that was very much welcomed by the then 11-year-old’s family.
While medical experts couldn’t make sense of Roxli’s recovery, her family had a theory to explain it. For Roxli’s loved ones, the disappearance of her tumor was simply the miracle that they had been praying for. In December 2018 Gena told KVUE, “Every day we still say it. It’s kind of our family thing that God healed Roxli.”
After Roxli’s unexplained recovery, it was hard to tell that she’d previously been given just months to live. She was back on her horse and enjoying life once more, much to her parents’ delight. In December 2018 Scott told KVUE, “She is just as active as she ever was… We didn’t know how long she would be healthy and, look at her, she’s just doing awesome.”
Roxli’s doctors were eager to stress that the youngster wasn’t completely out of the woods just yet. As a result, they would continue to monitor her condition closely and provide treatments like immunotherapy as a precaution. She also took part in a research trial in a bid to keep the tumor at bay.
Explaining her team’s cautious approach to Roxli’s apparent recovery, Harrod told HuffPost, “No one wants to underestimate this tumor… We need to be very vigilant in monitoring her and getting MRI scans going forward so that we can do our best to continue to make sure she’s in the best health possible.”
But with that having been said, Harrod noted that she and her coworkers at Dell Children’s Hospital were “cautiously optimistic” about Roxli’s prognosis. As a result, her family was free to celebrate the good news publically. So both of her parents took to social media so that they could share their joy with their supporters.
Celebrating the news on her Facebook page, Roxi’s mom posted a picture of her daughter riding her beloved horse. As part of her accompanying caption, Gena rejoiced in the youngster’s recovery. She wrote, “Praise God for His miracle of healing and for HAPPY tears that I don’t think will ever stop flowing!”
Meanwhile, Roxli’s dad Scott also celebrated his daughter’s good news on Facebook. He shared a picture of Roxli’s MRI scans, highlighting how her tumor had disappeared from view. Alongside the amazing photographs, Scott wrote, “After two-plus months of fervent and faithful prayers for healing from this community and across the country, GOD HAS ANSWERED OUR PRAYERS!”
Scott continued, “Doctors have characterized Roxli’s response to radiation as ‘very, very rare’ and ‘a very wonderful and unusual response.’ They cannot find anything clinically wrong with her. Several radiologists have said that Roxli’s post-radiation scans appear to represent a perfectly normal brain!”
Revealing that the future was still uncertain for Roxli, Scott added, “DIPG historically always comes back after radiation. But doctors don’t know what to expect in Roxli’s case because so few DIPG patients have ever been in the incredible position we’re in now. Regardless of what the future holds, there is no doubt in my mind that today we are witnessing God’s healing hand over Roxli.”
Scott explained, “There is not a doctor on this Earth or medicine known to man that could produce this result.” As a result, the overjoyed father believed that it was God who had been responsible for the disappearance of Roxi’s tumor. And he believed the miracle had been granted thanks to all the prayers his family had received.
Referencing the public support that Roxli had received, Scott wrote, “God has responded with mercy and love to YOUR prayers in FAITH and HE is GLORIFIED in this MIRACLE!!! I am fired up. Gena and I have heard of so many of you praying daily and unceasingly. Look at what can happen when the community prays together and faithfully believes that GOD WILL ANSWER!”
Scott’s post eventually clocked up 1,700 reactions on Facebook. What’s more, the post was shared more than 300 times and received more than 500 comments. And many of the messages Scott’s status attracted shared in the father’s joy as his daughter’s recovery. One such comment read, “That is such wonderful news. THANK YOU JESUS for answering prayers.”
Meanwhile, another commenter revealed that Roxli’s miraculous change of fortunes had given them hope. They wrote, “Dear Scott, I read, with joy, of your daughter’s healing. My five-year-old son, Jonathon, has been diagnosed with DIPG. We believe in prayer. Would you please connect us to/ request for prayer with your prayer warriors. I know, too, that God’s Healing in Jesus Christ, is our only hope.”