Saturday, February 28, 2004


Q. What, exactly, is leukemia?

"Well, to be honest, it’s pretty much the biggest suck-fest our family has ever faced. ---- Oh, you wanted the medical definition? Well, in that case, leukemia is cancer of the blood forming tissues that make up the bone marrow inside the large bones. The diseased bone marrow then floods the body with abnormal white cells. These cells do not perform the infection fighting functions of healthy, mature white cells. In addition, production of red cells, which carry oxygen, and platelets, which help prevent bleeding, is decreased. Around our house, in laymen’s terms, leukemia is “sick blood”."

Q. Are there different types of leukemia?

"Why, funny you should ask! Yes, there are. Childhood leukemia is different than adult leukemia, and even childhood leukemia can be broken down into several different types."

Q. What type does Kendrie have?

"She has ALL, which stands for Acute Lymphoblastic (or Lymphocytic) Leukemia. Basically, fast acting, and ugly. But I think all leukemias are ugly, so maybe I’m not the best person to explain. 75% of children with leukemia have ALL. It’s always nice to be part of the popular crowd, don’t ya think?"

Q. When will Kendrie be in remission?

"Kendrie was in remission by Day 14 of her chemotherapy regimen. Remission is achieved when all signs and symptoms of leukemia disappear and abnormal cells are no longer found in the blood, bone marrow, or cerebrospinal fluid. Now we can focus on the fun stuff, like the side effects from chemo." (she said with a lilting laugh …. NOT!)

Q. As long as she is in remission, why does she still have chemotherapy?

"Despite being in remission, if chemotherapy were to be stopped now, it is definite that the leukemia would return. Discontinuation of treatment would be fatal."

Q. Well, holy crap, isn’t there EVER any good news at your house?

"Why, yes there is. At some point in time (opinions vary, but we’re talking ball-park a few years after treatment ends) Kendrie will be considered “cured”. That means that the risk of the original disease returning is no greater than the risk faced by all healthy children of developing the same disease."

Q. So, then you can quit worrying?

"Does the phrase 'when monkeys fly out of my butt' mean anything to you?"

Q. So, how long is treatment, anyway?

"For kids with standard risk ALL, like Kendrie, there are several treatment options with different protocols, but generally speaking, treatment lasts two years, two months for girls, and three years, two months for boys."

Q. Why is treatment longer for boys?

"Because they’re stinky."

Q. Will Kendrie ever have to have a bone marrow transplant, or one of those con-tro-vers-ial cord blood transplants we keep hearing about?

"Hopefully not. Barring any complications or relapse, Kendrie’s chemotherapy regimen should be enough to win this battle. For kids on higher risk protocols, or those that relapse, other treatment options can include one or more of the following: increased chemo, bone marrow transplant (BMT), peripheral blood stem cell transplant (PBSCT), or radiation therapy."

Q. How can I help?

"OK, so maybe you didn’t really ask this question, but I’m going to tell you anyway. Donate blood. As often as possible. And consider signing up with the American Bone Marrow Registry. Call 1-800-745-2452 or visit American Bone Marrow Registry for more information.

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