Aubrey Bonnichsen
Date of Birth: December 15, 1995
Date of Diagnosis: June 30, 2009
Earned Her Wings: February 18, 2011

Aubrey Anne Bonnichsen
 Forever 15
 Dec 15, 1995 – Feb 18, 2011

In the spring of 2009, Aubrey was noticing she had double vision, constant headaches and stomach aches, plus her hearing in one ear was hindered.  While on family vacation the beginning of June we noticed she was falling a lot, was vomiting randomly and tipping her head to the side when she looked at things or talked to people.

As soon as we returned home from vacation, we took her in for an eye exam and the eye doctor said her eyes were fine but that an MRI should be done. Just days later, we were in our family doctor’s office to learn the results of the MRI. Aubrey had a fairly large tumor at the top of her brainstem and would need to see a Neurologist in Rapid City.  From there it was a whirlwind as we were then referred to Denver Children’s Hospital to be seen by Neuro-Surgeon Dr. Ken Winston. We had one day to pack and prepare for Denver.

On June 27, 2009, Aubrey underwent an open craniotomy to biopsy the tumor. On June 30, it was confirmed that Aubrey had a Diffuse Pontine Glioma or DPG (DIPG) for short. It is at the top of the brain stem and it “diffuses” into the pons of the brain. The pons deal primarily with sleep, respiration, swallowing, bladder control, hearing, equilibrium, taste, eye movement, facial expressions and sensation, and posture. There is no known cause of this cancer or prevention of it. There is no known cure for it. Because it “diffuses” through the pons of the brain,  it is inoperable. It would be similar to putting a drop of ink in a glass of water then trying to get the ink out. Currently the only treatment available is radiation and chemotherapy to help improve quality of life before the tumor begins to progress again.
Aubrey underwent 6 weeks of radiation treatments 5 days a week.  The entire family stayed in Denver during this time. Just 3 weeks after being home she needed to start 6 rounds of chemotherapy because symptoms were returning.  Once Aubrey completed chemotherapy she did very well for a period of time. She was able to go on a Make-A-Wish cruise to the Caribbean towards the end of February 2010.

After being in hospice care for 6 months, on February 18, 2011 Aubrey flew into the welcoming arms of her Savior surrounded by her loving family and close friends. We’ve learned a lot about life from Aubrey. She enjoyed life and inspired us all.  She will always be our hero!