Cancer Survivor Stories
Helping Children with Cancer Get Back to the Business of Just Being Kids
When two-year-old Ian Daly developed a rash over most of his body and started showing little interest in his toys, his parents knew something was seriously wrong.
"He was irritable, listless and his color was just horrible, he was so pale," recalls Kathleen and Glenn. "We were crushed, but we knew we'd get Ian through it."
The Daly's pediatrician turned to pediatric oncologist, Lorrie Odom, MD, who has a special interest in the treatment and supportive care of children and teens with cancer including: leukemia, lymphoma, malignant and benign solid tumors, late sequelae of treatment, as well as long-term survivorship.
She rapidly diagnosed Ian with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Odom says ALL is the most common cancer in young children, usually seen in early childhood between ages two and five, and is more easily treated when diagnosed at that age.
"Ian received a blood transfusion that night, and the next morning he underwent anesthesia to put in a mediport and do a diagnostic bone marrow procedure and diagnostic and therapeutic spinal tap. When the diagnosis of ALL was confirmed the day after admission, he began treatment with chemotherapy later that day," she said.
Odom provided Ian with a care plan that included aggressive infection prophylaxis and actively engaged his parents in Ian's preventive care by educating them on what to watch for and how to help support him during treatment.
Other than his initial five days of hospitalization, Ian's treatment was done entirely as an outpatient. "He's been progressing very well, his only hospitalization was for his initial diagnosis and mediport placement," she said.
It is ideal to minimize the number of days spent in the hospital to decrease infection exposure, especially because a cancer patient's immune system gets so compromised. There are also considerable psychosocial benefits for the child and his parents to receive treatment as an outpatient.
Children with standard risk ALL, like Ian, who undergo treatment have about an 80 to 85 percent cure rate. Kathleen and Glenn, young parents from Littleton, are happy to see their boy full of energy and back to playing with his toy motorcycle. Still in his maintenance phase, Ian is doing very well, Odom said with a confident smile.
"Ian has come a long way and has an excellent prognosis. He seems to enjoy coming to the clinic and his delightful personality is blossoming—he is back to acting like the charming little boy who loves to play with his trucks," she said
Ian's treatment took place in several phases:
- Induction Therapy: lasts one month; kills the majority of the leukemia cells in the blood and bone marrow.
- Consolidation Therapy: lasts one month; destroys more leukemia cells and treats the central nervous system leukemia that is "hiding out" in this sanctuary site. The extra spinal taps and possibly even radiation therapy is considered crucial during this phase to decrease the risk of relapse.
- Interim-Maintenance: takes two months.
- Delayed Intensification: lasts another two months.
- Maintenance: prevents leukemia cells from regrowing. The treatments used in this stage are generally very tolerable and compatible with a normal lifestyle.