Central Ohio family puts faith over fear as daughter battles rare brain cancer

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Faith over fear.

Those are the words a family in central Ohio lives by every day after learning that their daughter Olivia had been diagnosed with a rare, inoperable brain tumor.

Now they turn their fear into hope as they try to help other families with children battling cancer.

“We’re super grateful that she’s such a rock star because I think a lot of our strength really comes from her,” said Shannon Routte, Olivia’s mom.

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It’s a power that Shannon and Justin Routte never knew they had before their world changed in the spring of 2020.

“We started to notice that her eye was crossing, her balance started to be disturbed, she started to stumble a lot, more than usual awkward for a child,” Shannon Routte said.

Doctors diagnosed five-year-old Olivia with diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, or more commonly known as DIPG, a rare brain tumor in a location too risky to attempt to remove through surgery.

“It’s called the ponds, the place in the brain where it affects what you eat, your breathing, your mobility, so walking and talking,” Shannon Routte said.

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The Routte family said that most children with this cancer diagnosis only have a few months to live.

“There’s really no consistency because it’s such a rare disease,” says Justin Routte, Olivia’s father.

But Olivia immediately started radiation therapy, and this family of five believes in hope, hope for Olivia’s future and hope for a cure.

“Just because, you know, that’s your stat, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get there and the best way to do that is with hope,” Shannon Routte said.

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Shannon and Justin founded the Olivia Strong Foundation to raise awareness for children diagnosed with DIPG and create a community of support.

“And then to also raise money for research for DIPG studies, because that’s what you’re trying to do is essentially find a clinical trial that’s going to be the cure,” Shannon Routte said.

And they live in hope as they stay strong for Olivia and her battle with cancer.

“And make sure that now as a family we just make memories and do lots of fun things,” Shannon Routte said.

The Olivia Strong Foundation held its first event this weekend – a yoga class called Flo for a Cure because Olivia loves children’s yoga classes. She goes to first grade and she keeps the family positive every day with her smile and her laugh.

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