Christian’s journey began in the week of 4th of July, 2018 when he was just shy of 4 years old. What was supposed to be a fun-filled week at a friend’s cabin (where he was looking forward to playing, swimming, boating and enjoy campfires with his big brothers), turned into a stay on the couch or chair by the lake with lots of sleeping. This was not the vibrant, inquisitive boy we knew. Upon our return home, we knew it was time to be evaluated. Thinking he might just have a virus, we went in for a check-up and blood draw. That evening we received an emergent call with the shocking news that Christian’s white blood cell count was more than 70-times over the normal limit: he had leukemia.
He was immediately admitted to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Mayo Clinic and after a whirlwind 24 hours of testing, evaluations and procedures, his diagnosis was confirmed. He had acute T-cell lymphoblastic leukemia (T-cell ALL) and he was about to begin a journey of 3 ½ years of chemotherapy, lumbar punctures and cranial radiation (the first 4 weeks of which were spent in the hospital). Right before his 4th birthday, he was ready to be dismissed home and continue the intense schedule as an outpatient. While he weathered his treatment fairly well, the first good news came right before Thanksgiving, when he was officially in remission and ongoing treatment was now aimed at making sure all the leukemia cells would be fully eradicated and will stay away. He is now 8 months into his marathon with close to 3 years left.
Soon after diagnosis, we were introduced to Brighter Tomorrows and invited to become part of a new family, one of peers fighting the same battle. Because of treatment circumstances, we didn’t join right away, but are immensely grateful we did – and regret we didn’t do it sooner – as Brighter Tomorrows offered a kind of kinship that filled a specific void amidst the overwhelming support we had received so far. Whether advice on how to navigate this new world, activities and care for siblings, an opportunity to share our story with people on the same journey, or just to share a meal, Brighter Tomorrows has become an integral part of our new life living with pediatric cancer.