One Year After Brain Tumor Surgery, 10-Year-Old Celebrates with Holiday Concert

A year ago, Aimee Fellows couldn’t imagine being back at Boston Children’s Hospital, awaiting the start of another violin concert featuring her daughter. Sophie, now 10 years old, is dressed this time in a frilly white blouse, black skirt and black dress shoes, her first pair of heels, albeit little more than an inch higher than flats.

Exactly a year ago, Sophie arrived at Boston Children’s Patient Entertainment Center wearing pajamas, with a white bandage covering her IV hook-up. Fellow students from Carolyn Bever’s violin school in Vermont had come to help her finish the holiday concert she had left a few days earlier because of a painful headache that turned out to be a sign of a brain tumor. The day before her surgery to remove the tumor, Sophie completed the concert at Boston Children’s, ending with Johann Pachelbel’s Canon in D, the finale for which she had practiced for months.

“It was bittersweet,” Aimee Fellows recalls. “I was fearful that I was watching my 9-year-old daughter perform this talent perhaps for the last time.”

sophie, violin, pediatric brain tumor
Last year’s concert: Sophie performs at Boston Children’s Hospital the day before her brain tumor surgery.

The surgery was a success. The brain tumor, while large, was non-malignant. Now Bever’s students were back to perform a concert to bring holiday hope to this year’s patients. “Last year I was pretty scared for the next day,” Sophie says. “This year is kind of like a celebration.”

Last year, Liliana Goumnerova, MD, Sophie’s surgeon and director of neurosurgery for Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, sat in the audience. This year, Goumnerova, who started playing piano at about the same age that Sophie started playing violin, accompanied the violinists on Canon in D. “I don’t think you can really repeat this experience,” Goumnerova says. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime deal.”

brain tumor, violin, holidays
Sophie Fellows, 10, plays her violin during a holiday concert held at Boston Children’s Hospital on Dec. 11, 2015. One year ago, Sophie underwent surgery at Boston Children’s to remove a brain tumor.

Sophie’s father, introducing the piece, remembered the seven-and-a-half-hour surgery the day after last year’s concert. While Sophie was in the recovery room, he and the family went to grab some food – and heard Pachelbel’s Canon in D playing in the background. Three days later, after a second seven-and-a-half- hour surgery to remove the last bit of Sophie’s tumor, they went back to the cafeteria, and once again Canon in D was playing. “It was divine intervention,” Chad Fellows told the audience.

holidays, brain tumor, music
Sophie and her surgeon, Liliana Goumnerova, MD, who accompanied the young violinists on piano.

Learn more about Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Brain Tumor Center.

2 thoughts on “One Year After Brain Tumor Surgery, 10-Year-Old Celebrates with Holiday Concert”

  1. Michael, this is a wonderful story. Kind of puts things into perspective and points out what is important. Big thanks to DFCI for being there for this young girl.

    Thanks for sharing this

  2. Thank you so much Dana Farber for sharing this amazing story of Brave fighter Sophie.
    More power to Sophie and to you as well. ????

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