Monica is a beautiful 21 year old woman who is facing her third battle with Leukemia. Her first battle began at just 14 years old. She has a long road ahead of her but she is determined once again to beat leukemia.
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Her Original Leukemia Story:
*The following story was written November of 2009*
She pretty much began to ‘whine’ right off the bat about how far her locker was from all her classes and carries those heavy books were dragging her down. I just felt she was complaining and needed to get used to it. (Wow… hindsight can really come back and bit you uh?)
She’s been sick off and on since school had started which truly isn’t like her. Of course I blamed it on new germs, new school and more kids. I’d checked her out many times off and on for not feeling good. She never had fever but really had a case of the blahs and not feeling good. I really thought the reason she felt like that was due to the fact most of her friends were not in her classes anymore and she was missing them.
She began to complain more and more about not feeling well towards the end of Oct. Her new complaint was being out of breath, tired and having no energy and “I just don’t feel good”. I took her to the Dr and was told she had an upper respitory infection and since it was viral she needed to just wait it out. Two days later she developed a high fever and since she is also a Type 1 diabetic, I called the Dr and was told to take her to the ER to be safe. The ER did chest x-rays and told us she had bronchitis. Six days (11-12-09) later she felt so awful that I took her back to the Dr’s office and they listened to her list of issues and after a quick examination and blood work, told us she had pneumonia. They called us in another antibiotic and inhaler and we ran back to school where I taught my last class and then off to CVS to pick up prescription.
By the time we got home, the Dr’s office had left 4 messages on the answering machine requesting we call them back. The phone was actually ringing as we opened the door. So, I answered it (and saw we had messages on the answering machine) and it was the Dr office telling me she was highly anemic and that her other blood tests looked suspicious. Her actual words were “critical lab values”. I asked what that meant and she told me her tests indicated something wasn’t right.
So, I asked for the results…. White count 450,000 (100,000 is normal). Hemoglobin was a 4 (12 is normal) and Hermaticrit was 13 (normal is 39) and platelets were 45 (normal is 125). I honestly don’t know much about blood work, but I know that high white counts were not a good sign and all I knew about high whites were leukemia related. It sent a shudder through me and I prayed I was wrong. Monica was standing in front me while I was on the phone begging to know what was going on and I didn’t want to alarm her so I had to keep my face smiley and normal while my insides were melting.
They told me to get to the closest ER so that a pediatrician could be called in. Since we had to go to Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Atlanta last year for her diabetes diagnoses in Aug, I asked if we could go there since she had such a positive experience there and she was comfortable. Plus, since it is a children’s hospital I knew that we’d see a pediatrician as soon as got there and would not have to wait for one to be called in.
I called my husband Vic and told him we needed to go to the ER and off we went to Scottish Rite. My able daughter walked in the ER and looking around… everyone else was sick, broken arms, broken legs and here is my beautiful daughter texting! Yes, she was tired but she never put down her cell phone. Typical teen!
We immediately signed in and once they asked why we were there, I told them she had critical lab values… apparently that is a bad sign and we were pushed to the front of all those children, we immediately went to triage and by passed all the kids waiting to see a Dr and straight back to a room, IV put in, blood drawn and x-rays taken. Within an hour of arriving to the hospital, the Dr came in to tell us she had leukemia. I asked about the pneumonia and apparently, she never had it or bronchitis or an upper respitory infection. I did think it was weird she was diagnosed with all those things but never coughed or had a runny nose or a sore throat. Even the fever was related to the leukemia!
We were diagnosed with Leukemia offically on November 12, 2009. The Dr's were unable to tell us which type we had since she showed signs of having both ALL and AML. It took several days to get our results and on November 18th it was decided we have AUL. Acute Undifferentiated Leukemia. Under a microscope, she has both ALL and AML cells with a 'twist'. Because of this, we have a chromosome problem. It's known as Monosomy 7. We only have one chromosome instead of the two you are supposed to have for the 7th chromosome. Because of this missing 'link' we will be required to have a bone marrow transplant.
Monica has had quite an adventure since coming Egleston Children's Hospital in Atlanta where they treat her particular type of leukemia.
The Beads of Courage program was introduced to us about 3 days after we arrived since things had quieted down from having surgery to put in a central line and begun chemo. We are already on our fourth strand of beads for all the procedures she has endured so far. The beads show our journey and are a constant visual reminder of where we are. Monica looks forward to her beads each day to add to her strands.
Monica completed her third round of chemo on March 5th and we reported back to CHOA on March 29th to prepare for her bone marrow transplant. Her Bone Marrow Transplant took place on April 6th. Our son Cody was her perfect donor and the harvesting and transfusion went wonderfully for both my children.
She is ready to get it all over and go home forever. Personally, I look forward to the last day of treatment when we can hang up the multiple beads of courage strands she will have earned and reflect where we once were and where we are now.
It has been quite an experience, one that I will never forget. We’ve met amazing kids along the way that have touched our hearts forever. Now that we are members in the club no one willingly joins, our friends are now a part of our family for life.
*As of August 13, 2010 Monica was released from the BMT team and handed back over to the regular oncology team. She has remained in remission since first round in Dec. 2009.
** At her quarterly check up on 1-9-12, it was discovered that her leukemia is back once again. We will once again go into battle. We are ready.
***Successful bone marrow transplant on May 24, 2012 thanks to marrow from Cody once again. She still has some medical challenges here and there but she is a warrior and battling through them all!
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