Learning About Childhood Leukemia
- Hollie McNeill was diagnosed with leukemia at eight weeks old after her doctor noticed she looked pale and sent her for testing at a hospital to check for anemia.
- Now, the five-year-old girl, from Lincolnshire, England, is celebrating being cancer-free since December 2017.
- Leukemia is a type of blood cancer. Symptoms vary depending on the type of leukemia, but general symptoms for the disease include: Fever or chills, persistent fatigue, weakness, frequent or severe infections, losing weight without trying, swollen lymph nodes, an enlarged liver or spleen, easy bleeding or bruising, recurrent nosebleeds, tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae), excessive sweating as well as bone pain or tenderness.
- Here at SurvivorNet, we’re always encouraging people to advocate for themselves when it comes to cancer and, more generally, health care. But when it comes to a child, the parent must become the advocate and make sure any possible signs of cancer are fully and expeditiously addressed.
Now, the five-year-old girl, from Lincolnshire, England, is celebrating being cancer-free since December 2017.Read More
The following day, Hollie was admitted into surgery, had a Broviac catheter (a line for long-term access to blood) fitting, and was given four rounds of intense chemo, Jennie explained.
“For the first five weeks we couldn’t come home, and then we were allowed to come home in between chemotherapy,” Jennie added. “But she had no immune system so we weren’t allowed to be around friends or family or in any public spaces. It was horrendous. It’s taken me a long time to be able to talk about it without crying.”
However, the battle was worth the fight as Hollie’s last round of chemo ended on November 11, 2017.
Now, Jennie is holding a fundraiser at the Wortley House Hotel in Scunthorpe on November 12 to celebrate her daughter being in remission for five years.
“I feel like I owe it to Sheffield Children’s Hospital, all the proceeds will go to them. I’m hoping I can raise at least a couple of hundred, and if people just want to donate some money, they can do that too,” she said.
Leukemia is a blood cancer that develops when the body produces large quantities of abnormal white blood cells. These cells prevent the bone marrow from producing any other type of cell including red blood cells and platelets.
“One cell got really selfish and decided that it needed to take up all the resources of everybody else, and, in doing so, took up space and energy from the rest of the body,” Dr. Nina Shah, a hematologist at the University of California San Francisco, explained.
In a more general sense, blood cancer means that your bone marrow is not functioning properly.
“And when your bone marrow doesn’t function correctly, it means that you can have something happen to you like anemia,” she said. “Or you can have low platelets, which makes it possible for you to bleed easily. Or your immune system is not functioning correctly.”
Symptoms of leukemia can vary depending on the specific type of leukemia. Common signs and symptoms of the disease include:
- Fever or chill
- Persistent fatigue, weakness
- Frequent or severe infections
- Losing weight without trying
- Swollen lymph nodes, enlarged liver or spleen
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Recurrent nosebleeds
- Tiny red spots in your skin (petechiae)
- Excessive sweating, especially at night
- Bone pain or tenderness
Here at SurvivorNet, we always encourage people to advocate for themselves when it comes to cancer and, more generally, health care. When it comes to a child or teenager, the parent must become the advocate. Although symptoms of leukemia are often initially tough to identify, make sure to get your child checked out if something seems amiss, and don’t stop for answers until you find out what’s wrong.
Advocating for Your Child
Here at SurvivorNet, we always encourage people to advocate for themselves when it comes to cancer and, more generally, health care. When it comes to a child, the parent must become the advocate.
And even if you’re called ‘pushy’ or people dismiss the concerns you have for your child, it’s important to remember that you never know when speaking up about a seemingly unproblematic issue can lead to a very important diagnosis – cancer or otherwise.
“Every appointment you leave as a patient, there should be a plan for what the doc is going to do for you, and if that doesn’t work, what the next plan is,” Dr. Zuri Murell, director of the Cedars-Sinai Colorectal Cancer Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “And I think that that’s totally fair. And me as a health professional – that’s what I do for all of my patients.”
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, April Knowles also talked about self-advocacy and explained how she became a breast cancer advocate after her doctor dismissed the lump in her breast as a side effect of her menstrual period. Unfortunately, that dismissal was a mistake.
Knowles was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at age 39. She said the experience taught her the importance of listening to her body and speaking up when something doesn’t feel right.
“I wanted my doctor to like me,” she said. “I think women, especially young women, are really used to being dismissed by their doctors.”
Figuring out whether or not you have – or your child has – cancer based on possible symptoms is critical because early detection may help with treatment and outcomes. Seeking multiple opinions is one way to make sure you or your child is getting the proper care and attention. You should also try to remember that not all doctors are in agreement. Recommendations for further testing or treatment options can vary, and sometimes it’s essential to talk with multiple medical professionals.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff