Twin Toddlers Battling Same Cancer At Age Three
- Three-year-old twin boys in England are both battling the same type of leukemia together, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
- ALL is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
- Leukemia is the most common cancer diagnosed in children and teens. It accounts for almost 1 out of 3 cancers. On the whole, though, pediatric leukemia is a rare disease.
In Langley, in South East England, the boys are battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). A GoFundMe campaign, Weston & Bennett’s Twincredible Leukemia Battle, was created to help the family of the Openshaw brothers with the cost of treatment.
Surrey Now Leader reports how the boys’ aunt, Rachael Fortier, said that the cancer diagnosis has “turned their world upside down” for the twins, their parents, and their entire family.
The Twin’s Cancer Journey & ALL
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
Weston was the first of the twins to be diagnosed with the disease. He was diagnosed with ALL in April. And four months later, tests revealed that his brother Bennett also had ALL. The family has been commuting for treatment one to three times per week so that the twins can undergo multiple rounds of chemotherapy, lumbar punctures, bone marrow biopsies, blood and platelet transfusions, reports the outlet. Their mother, Alisha, has stopped working to care for them full-time during cancer treatment.
Their aunt says that the boys are staying happy amid treatment. She says, “The boys remain their happy goofy little selves, love Mickey Mouse, playing with their older brother and cuddling with their grandma.”
Leukemia is the most common cancer diagnosed in children and teens. It accounts for almost 1 out of 3 cancers. On the whole, though, pediatric leukemia is a rare disease.
The American Cancer Society says that approximately 3 out of 4 leukemias among children and teens are acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). Most of the remaining cases are acute myeloid leukemia (AML). ALL is most common in early childhood, peaking between 2 and 5 years of age, says the ACS.
Treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia
Treatment options for this type of cancer, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, stem cell transplant, and in some cases, immunotherapy.
Immunotherapy drugs use a patient’s immune system to identify and destroy cancer cells. Several types of immunotherapy have been approved for use against childhood leukemia, according to the ACS.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Olalekan Oluwole, a hematologist with Vanderbilt University Medical Center, explains the steps that may follow an Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) diagnosis. He says, “Cancer is a really life-changing diagnosis. And we would like our patients to know that they don’t have to feel that they are in there on their own. We have case managers that can help. We have social workers.”
“In fact, we have a navigator– because sometimes they have blood test here, they see a doctor there, they get chemo there, they do a lumbar puncture. It can be completely overwhelming. So we actually have people that can help them find their way around the hospital,” he says.
For people going through a stem cell transplant for ALL, there are a few things you can expect to happen. A stem cell transplant wipes out the immune system, leaving a person more vulnerable to infections. As a result, this kind of treatment requires staying away from people and avoiding certain foods that could make you sick.
In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Caitlin Costello, a Hematologist-Oncologist at UC San Diego Health, explains what the recovery for this type of treatment looks like. She says, “Once you get home, you and your caregiver will have been taught how to protect you. Because like a brand new baby, we don’t really want you in public.”
“You’ve lost all immunity to any prior vaccinations you’ve ever had,” she says. “So over the course of the next two months, we’ll be pretty strict about what you eat, and who you see, and who you are around, and really limit your public exposure, if you will, to your doctors, and nurses, and caregiver team.”
Dr. Costello continues, “You’ll be coming in a couple of times a week to your doctor’s office to make sure that your stem cells are growing the way we would like them to.”
The Chemotherapy Experience for ALL: A Survivor’s Experience
Chemotherapy, which is one type of treatment that the twins are getting, can be challenging – just take it from pediatric cancer survivor Justice Wexler who battled ALL himself. While he’s grateful that he was able to overcome the disease, he admitted chemo was an extremely difficult experience to get through. By undergoing treatment, he’s now dealing with heart disease as a side effect.
“He’s a cancer survivor, but now we’re dealing with heart disease,” Justice’s mother, Jayne Wexler, tells SurvivorNet. “This is because of the chemo. Chemo-induced cardiomyopathy.”
Despite the side effects from chemo and the experience of the chemo itself, Justice says he feels stronger because of his cancer journey and encourages all children going through cancer not to be ashamed if they’re facing a diagnosis.
“If you’re ashamed of what you’ve been through, don’t be,” Justice says. “It makes you stronger as a person. While I would trade what happened to me in an instant, like if I’m failing in school, whatever, it’s like, I beat cancer.”
Contributing: Shelby Black