The cancer that invaded 4-year-old Ashley Allen's brain and developed into a lemon-sized tumor that her doctors thought they'd completely removed last November, has returned.
A recent CAT scan revealed a walnut-sized tumor on the rear upper exterior of the Payson girl's brain -- near the area where the earlier tumor had been found.
Ashley and her parents, Frank and Tracy Allen, are scheduled to return to Phoenix Children's Hospital early today (Friday) to prepare for surgery at 1 this afternoon.
Unlike the first procedure, this one will require the removal of a section of Ashley's brain.
"I'm not expecting the worst," her mother said, "but I'm preparing for (the surgery to affect her) speech and personality. But it shouldn't affect her fine motor skills, because those are controlled by the other side of the brain.
"Of course, anything's possible. But I could accept speech problems. Speech can come back. But I'm trying to be prepared for anything. Basically, that's my protection so I don't go crazy."
After Ashley's initial surgery in November, she underwent six weeks of radiation treatment, followed by four weeks of carbo-platinum chemotherapy medications.
She cannot be given any more radiation. Having received the maximum exposure, Ashley's body will not be able to tolerate more until she is at least 10 years old, her doctors said.
"She's lost three pounds since October," her mother said. "That may not sound like much, but that's 10 percent of her body weight."
The Allens have found silver linings in the dark clouds that persistently hover over them. First, on Jan. 26, the Make-a-Wish Foundation sent the family to Disneyland.
"They did everything. They boarded our dogs. They picked us up in a limo, gave us money, developed our film. They're just phenomenal."
But an even better gift came earlier this week. Ashley underwent a full-body MRI scan, and it was determined with "absolute certainty" that the cancer had not spread to her spine.
If it had, there would be little hope for the Allens, who said they need as much hope, and as many prayers, as they can gather.
"I've put it in God's hands," Tracy said. "If I didn't do that, I'd go insane."