In November of 2015, Ekaterina Hatzikostantis and her family faced something that no family expects, but everyone dreads all the same.
“I kept throwing up at the same time every day. The doctor said, ‘it’s just stress,’” said Hatzikostantis.
Then, Hatzikostantis’ vision began to be affected.
“My eye got messed up and we went to the ER,” Hatzikostantis said. “That’s when they told us.”
Hatzikostantis remembers that she was laying in the hospital bed when they told her she had a brain tumor, a medulloblastoma. At the time, she was only eight years old.
“Pressure from fluid had been causing her to experience double vision,” Hatzikostantis’ mom, Sonja, explained.
Shortly after this, Hatzikostantis had brain surgery. Then she began proton radiation therapy in December followed by chemotherapy in January at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis.
Time seems to quicken as one gets older, so three months for a second-grader felt long, especially when enduring so much stress.
In order to pass time during chemo, she would play games with her family. They played lots of card games, especially gin. Hatzikostantis would also walk around her floor with her IV bag, ready to chat with any nurse or patient.
While in treatment, Hatzikostantis could not attend school, although she did some worksheets here and there. However, her school, Crichfield Elementary School, was incredible at keeping Hatzikostantis feeling connected. When she was first diagnosed, she received letters from her classmates at the hospital. She spent hours smiling and reading each one.
Hatzikostantis was in treatment for around three years. On February 23, 2017, she “rang out” of treatment.
“Ring this bell. Three times well. It’s toll to clearly say, my treatment is done. This course is run and I am on my way,” Hatzikostantis read.
Her dad, Kosta, picked her up so that she could read the words printed above a bell in the hospital. Kosta placed Hatzikostantis on the ground while onlookers rang little bells. She rang the bell three times and the crowd around her rang theirs and cheered.
Currently, Hatzikostantis is spending the energy she spent kicking cancer’s behind by being a kick-butt student and big sister. She says she and her little brothers, Yianni and Niko, fight as all siblings do, but they are really close. Sometimes Yianni will join in on playing cards, but it is not Niko’s favorite activity. Her favorite subjects are math and social studies.
Hatzikostantis also loves fashion. One of her favorite things to do is shop. She likes to buy accessories, shoes, and clothes. Hatzikostantis is unlikely to be found without a piece of jewelry on or an ornament in her hair. In the summertime, she likes to rock a pair of statement sunglasses. In the colder months, she knows how to layer. She pairs jackets and cardigans with matching shirts and pants.
Hatzikostantis likes to shop at Claire’s, Justice, and Aéropostale. She has her aunt to thank for her love of fashion.
Cancer is still part of Hatzikostantis’ life, but its presence has been dwarfed. She visits an outpatient facility once every six months to a year for a check-up. She recognizes her old nurses and doctors and is always happy to say hello. There are lasting effects of her treatment, such as her growth being stunted from radiation therapy, but this is being treated along with any other complication that arises.
Hatzikostantis is a shining example of what strength looks like. At just 13 years old, she has battled a horrible disease, and now nothing can stand in her way.