Leukemia in Children: Mum shares important warning signs
"I don't mean to give everyone a fright, but awareness is really very important!"
Never had the thought crossed this mother’s mind that her child may be suffering from cancer. He was, after all, a very healthy child, who rarely caught a cold. Never once had he taken antibiotics.
Mommy Mary Anne Loh recently posted on Facebook about the day that changed her life forever.
How it first started
Mary writes about her son Ethan, “Ethan was a 100% breastfeed child, very healthy with almost zero to none sickness. No major fever, cough or flu whatsoever.”
“If he catches flu or cough bugs, he could self recover in less then 3 days with no medication. So literally he never had any medication in his life until D-DAY (Diagnosis Day)”
The troubles began in early 2015, and Mary elaborates on the first warning signs, “It all started early 2015, first major bout of flu & cough, followed with mild fever. 1st round it went off by itself in less then a week, no Dr visit as it wasn’t bad.”
“After 2 weeks of break it came back, this round it stayed longer & was a tad worse then the 1st round, took Ethan to a paeds near home, Doctor confirmed lungs was clear, was only given PROSPAN and it went off after.”
“Ethan was normal, still active and a monkey.”
Soon, other symptoms started to surface, “Around mid-February, 3rd bout of flu and cough but no fever, it also went of in less then a week. Come March he started complaining pain under his armpit which I thought was from how I carry him sometimes. I keep a close eye, it came n went off in a few days.”
“Towards 3rd week of March the underarm pain came back again, this round he refused to lift his arm. And again it went off by itself.”
A worried Mary consulted many paediatricians, “From January to March I have taken him to pedia many times, for assurance although I was assured he was fine & partly growing pains.”
“Come April, I notice a little weight loss but he was still active & eating although at times complain of stomach discomfort which we all thought was gas as he was passing out gas a lot.”
Each time she was assured that everything was alright, “Paeds also assured nothing was “wrong.” Honestly, I can’t really see anything significantly wrong either.”
Even blood tests failed to reveal the truth, “Come May, leg pain started, he can’t walk long and always wanted to be carried. Stomach discomfort has become more frequent, weight loss became more significant. And again the pedia assured he was fine, blood test which was done at (pedia clinic) didn’t show anything either.”
“We had plans to go Disney on the 23rd of May, however his leg pain has gotten from bad to worse on and off, some days he was ok and some days, it was bad.”
And finally when Ethan’s leg pain refused to go away, Mary made a decision, “On May 9, 2015, after our morning day out at the park I made an appointment later afternoon to see a Pediatric Orthopedic Dr. Yong Su Mei at Park City Medical Centre.”
Dr. Yong suspected that something was wrong, “X-ray was done and it was clear, but our life saver Dr Yong was concerned about Ethan’s bloated stomach and noted that he was a little on the pale side. She then suggested, insisted and referred us to pediatrician Dr. Liew Pei Sze.”
“Dr Liew attempted to “touch and feel” Ethan’s tummy (actually it was the spleen & liver). She ordered for a complete blood count to be done (CBC).”
“I started googling … I gauged Dr Yong & Dr Liew facial expression along with what I find on google … my world was on a stand still …”
“It took “forever” for the blood result to be out, I called my close friend Ang SH, her precious angel battled leukemia before gaining his angel wings recently.”
“SooHsia tried to calm me, what are the odds of two good friends with their sons having leukemia? At 6:38pm of 19/5/15 Dr. Liew broke the news; WBC was at 24 (normal is 7, a bit higher if infection) Dr. Liew said this; and yes, I remember each word like it was yesterday!”
The doctor said, “Mommy, from the blood test, I am sorry to say the probability of leukemia, a form of blood cancer is very high. Ethan’s platelet and hemoglobin is at a dangerous stage, we need him admitted and will transport him out by ambulance the next morning at 7 am to SJMC.”
“He needs both blood and platelet transfusion. He will be referred to Dr. Chan, a paediatric hematologist and oncologist, they will do a bone marrow aspiration to finalize the type and to find out more. I’m so sorry Mommy Ethan, are you ok?”
Mary will never forget that day, “I was “never” ok after that day, how can I? So you see, symptoms varies and some takes a long time to surface.”
“Most of Ethan’s symptoms were very much associated with growing pains, most of the time they are actually.”
Finally, she has this message for all parents, “I don’t mean to give everyone a fright but awareness is REALLY VERY IMPORTANT! And if I had to talk about it daily for the rest of my life so be it, I will.”
Thank you, Mary for sharing this very important information, and creating awareness about the symptoms we so often overlook. It has been two and a half years since Ethan started his treatment, and we are glad that he’s recovering well.
Leukemia in children
Leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells. These abnormal and defective white cells crowd the bone marrow and flood the bloodstream.
As leukemia progresses, the cancer interferes with the body’s production of other types of blood cells, including red blood cells and platelets. This results in anemia (low numbers of red cells) and bleeding problems, in addition to the increased risk of infection caused by white cell abnormalities.
Leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children and teens.
With proper treatment though, most children with leukemia will be free of the disease without it coming back.
Symptoms of leukaemia in children include:
- Fatigue or pale skin
- Infections and fever
- Easy bleeding or bruising, experiencing frequent nosebleeds, or bleeding for an unusually long time after even a minor cut, because leukaemia destroys the bone marrow’s ability to produce clot-forming platelets.
- Extreme fatigue or weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Bone or joint pain
- Swelling in the abdomen, face, arms, underarms, sides of neck, or groin (swollen lymph nodes)
- Swelling above the collar bone
- Loss of appetite or weight loss
- Headaches, seizures, balance problems, or abnormal vision
- Gum problems