Leukemia is a cancer of the cells that produce blood cells. Typically it is the bone marrow that is cancerous but in some cases the spleen is also affected. The cancerous cells either overproduce nonfunctional blood cells or cease blood cell production. Different cells are affected and that is what determines what type/subtype of leukemia the patient has.
My 2 1/2 year old son E was diagnosed with a Wilms' Tumour as a newborn, won his battle, and was recently diagnosed with Secondary Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). AML is related to ALL (the most common leukemia in children) but is still quite different. His cancer is most likely a secondary cancer caused by the chemotherapy his first time when he fought Wilms. E somehow passed his screenings he has every 3 months back in October but in the end of November we started to notice he wasn't quite himself, and he was diagnosed December 19th.
There are lots of symptoms of leukemia but each individual is different. Some display some symptoms while others display other ones. There's no actual tumour as in other cancers but leukemia is a cancer of the cells that create blood cells. E had a cold in November that he just couldn't kick. We took him to the doctor and he was given an antibiotic. He got a little better but as soon as he finished the antibiotic he got sick again. He usually has a couple bruises here and there since he is a 2 year old. His walking was greatly affected from one of the drugs in his first chemo cocktail so he trips and falls pretty often. But the bruising he had was more than usual - he bruised at the slightest bump. That's when we really knew something was wrong and took him to the doctor again. Once he was diagnosed we found out that his spleen and liver were enlarged - also symptoms of leukemia. Due to the extent of enlargement of his spleen, he had it removed after a round of chemotherapy. So far he has had 3 strong doses of induction chemo and 3 consolidation rounds, he was given another strong dose of chemo due to a tumour in his liver that hasn't been typed yet - unrelated to the leukemia but possibly related to the Wilms' Tumour he had as an infant. He just finished his 2nd round of that yesterday. He does stay in the hospital during his chemo. His chemo lasts 7 days and he usually stays for up to 2 weeks. He will also have a bone marrow transplant when a donor becomes available. The chances of relapse with AML are pretty high. Since this is his second time fighting cancer he is considered at a greater risk for relapse so the bone marrow transplant is the best choice for him.
He had some joint pain at the time of diagnosis. I have to say I didn't really think too much of the joint pain because he doesn't walk well due to one of the previous chemotherapy drugs he had - Vincristine. Because of Vincristine his leg muscles are weaker and he walks with "slapfoot" or "dropfoot" and he trips and falls fairly often. I figured his joint pain was because of falling but since his diagnosis I now see that it was probably because of the leukemia. On treatment he has had a significant amount of bone and joint pain, especially early on. When it's clear that he is in pain, he does get pain meds to help. I think the painkillers do help him but I think even then he does have some pain but duller than without painkillers.
A leukemia diagnosis is absolutely not a death sentence. It's treatable but you have to keep in mind that it does take lives. I know many children and adults that have gone on to live completely normal lives after getting their No Evidence of Disease (NED) status. Sometimes a patient does relapse but it is absolutely possible that he or she can reach remission and eventually NED status.
I hope this helped you out some and I hope nothing but the best for your friend. If you have any more questions feel free to email me (email@example.com) or IM me (crazycanuckj).
My 2 year old son is a warrior who beat a Wilms' Tumour and is currently battling Secondary Acute Myelogenous Leukemia and an untyped mass in his liver.
· 1 decade ago