You won’t often hear a family with a child battling leukemia talk about what a “remarkable” experience they’ve had. But 8-year-old Tyler and his family focus on the many bright sides of his life since Tyler was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Tyler has always been energetic and active. He loves baseball more than anything. Prior to his diagnosis, it wasn’t unusual for Tyler to spend up to 10 hours a day on the baseball diamond pitching, catching and playing first base.
In early March 2010, his first symptoms seemed normal kid stuff that gave little indication anything was seriously wrong: He threw up once, he had a bloody nose twice, he was pale, and his non-pitching arm ached. But when his baseball coach told his mom, Kim, that Tyler seemed to have “lost that spark,” she took him to the doctor the next day.
After a series of blood tests, Kim received the call every parent fears. As Tyler finished up a baseball game, the doctor told Kim, “The white blood cell test results were off the charts. I think he has leukemia. There is a doctor waiting for you at Rady Children’s Hospital tonight.”
Crying, Kim told Tyler, “Your body is making bad blood cells. We need to go to the hospital to run some tests to find out why. We can fix it, but your body isn’t going to be healthy until we get you to make good blood cells again.”
Tyler was diagnosed with T-cell ALL, a particularly aggressive form of ALL. T-ALL accounts for 10% to 15% of newly diagnosed cases of ALL, the most common leukemia in children under age 15. He immediately endured cranial radiation, chemotherapy, and a multitude of needles and tests. The Rady Children’s doctors told Tyler and his family to expect to spend 29 days in the hospital receiving the initial treatment.
“The first round was really rough,” said Kim. “He was so sick. He doesn’t remember much of those first days.”
Tyler responded well to the treatment. After only eight days, he was released from the hospital. Within 14 days of his diagnosis, he was in full remission. He was able to play baseball several times a week, even right after receiving chemotherapy. His treatment team devised a special port protector so he can slide into second base without disturbing the implanted device used to administer his medication.
“He’s one of the more remarkable cases at the hospital,” said Kim.
Given that many children diagnosed with cancer and other blood disorders spend months in the hospital, Tyler knows he is fortunate. He’ll continue to receive outpatient treatment for the next three years. And although he’ll be able to play baseball, he’ll also experience sickness, fatigue and miss many things most kids take for granted, including going to school. But Tyler has found his own way to keep score. “I just think about one day at a time, never the next day. I just breathe, count and get it over with!”