Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Leukemia - The "Good" Cancer

Imagine that your child is sick. You take him to the pediatrician and she doesn't know what to think, so she runs some blood work. Suddenly, chaos ensues. You and your child are sent directly to the nearest ER where more tests are run. There's a sense of urgency in everyone's voice, but when you beg for an explanation you are told to wait for the doctor, wait for the test results, wait, wait, wait.

Finally a doctor comes in, sits down and tells you that your child has Leukemia and needs to start chemotherapy as soon as possible. He walks out the door to make arrangements and there you sit. Shell-shocked. After you gather your thoughts for a minute you call your best friend. Surely she can make sense of this, surely she can make everything ok. With tears running down your cheeks you fill her in on the last few hours of hell that you and your child have endured and then you pause to give her a chance to fix it, to say something... and she says, "Well, at least it's just Leukemia. That's the good cancer."

The good cancer... the cancer that wreaks havoc on your body and makes you sicker and sicker until someone figures out what is going on... and then you start chemotherapy which makes your hair fall out, makes you throw up, can cause long term problems with your heart, your hearing and several other things. The good cancer. Ask Charlie's mom how "good" Leukemia is. Talk to Erica's fiance or sisters or mother; I'm sure they can tell you exactly what they think of Leukemia. Caylyn, Chloe, Janelle and Sierra's parents may have a few words about Leukemia too...

Or better yet, ask Matthew.This is Matthew Litchfield. He is 14 years old. In September 2006, Matthew was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia. Instead of finishing his junior high school career with his friends, he was going through chemotherapy. In December, he relapsed. The doctors at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital were able to get him back into remission and on March 14, 2007 when Matthew should have been deciding what to do for Spring Break, he had a bone marrow transplant from an anonymous donor.

The transplant worked! And though Matthew had his ups and downs and had several complications, he faced each one head on... and he thrived. Still, in the Fall of 2007, when Matthew should have been starting his Freshman year of high school, he was busy going to endless doctors appointments, watching his counts and battling one setback after another. Finally, in April, things were looking good and Matthew and his parents were able to go to Hawaii for Matthew's Make-A-Wish Trip. It seemed that all was going well and Matthew looked forward to spending the summer hanging out with his friends and getting ready for his Sophomore year of high school. Until last week.

Matthew and his parents, Jeff & Tricia

During a routine clinic appointment, Matthew's doctor noticed that his numbers were going crazy... again. This time though it was enough to warrant a bone marrow biopsy. And while his friends and family and the staff and Vanderbilt prayed SO hard, it turns out that Matthew's Leukemia is back again.


Matthew Litchfield should be spending his days deciding if he wants to play football or run cross country. He should be choosing his subjects for his Sophomore year of high school and talking to his friends on the phone about girls. He should be going to the movies and hanging out at the mall and he should be able to do so without wondering if he has enough neutrophils to do it safely. Instead, Matthew and his parents had to decide whether or not to fight this cancer again. Matthew had to decide whether or not he wanted to be admitted to the hospital for 4-6 weeks and pump chemo into his body and make himself sick all over again. He had to make a decision to go through yet another bone marrow transplant and endure all the horrible effects that goes along with that. He has to think about things that no 14 year old should ever have to contemplate.


And Matthew will fight. He will continue to fight just like he has for the last year and a half, and people all over the world who love him and care about him will pray, so hard, that he wins. I'm pretty sure if you ask Matthew about Leukemia, he won't tell you that it's a "good" cancer. I'm pretty sure he'll tell you it sucks. I know that's what his mother would say. I know, because I say it every day.

Matthew and Keeghan

Visit Matthew's Page and learn more about him. Find out how you can be praying... and watch for the miracle... and if you EVER hear someone say that Leukemia is a "Good cancer" slap them for me tell them about Matthew and Kennedy and Max and Mya and Logan and Riley and Kambryn and Matthew and David and Jillian and Isaac and Jack and Sadie and Jackson and this Jackson too; and Joshua and Katherine and Nate and Alexys and Chelsea and Ashlyn and Brianna and Chloe and this Chloe too and Ethan and John and Peter and Rachel and Rylee and Gracie and Jillian and Hannah Cate and Tyler and Pierce and Kelly and Julia and David and Laura and Isaac and Bianca and Connor and...

25 comments :

Shari said...

Oh Renee! I am crying! I can't help it! After battling cancer myself it is never, ever fair that a child of any age should have to fight it! It SUCKS!!! I say it everyday. And then, I am angry on top of it. "The Good Cancer." The the he**!! Are you kidding me? Sorry, this is something I am passionate about! I pray over these kids everyday!

Steph said...

Powerful post, Renee!!

I'm sorry Matthew has to fight again....after fighting so much already....I'm going to visit his site....


I'll never forget when I saw the pediatrician (that diagnosed Asher) with my girls (while Asher was in the hospital) and her comment to me was, "At least it was the best brain tumor he could get...."

And I continued to hear things like that for the 10 months of treatment....

Sure, there IS always something far worse than what my son is going through, what I am going through, and what my neighbor is going through, but....

What is compassion? Where is compassion?

There are always people who believe in finding the positive in everything....

I guess I do that sometimes too....believe that everything happens for a reason....

Does it change the pain....

No....

No matter how you look at it, cancer is cancer, each child's cancer affects them differently than the next, and cancer sucks.

May there be a cure some day for all cancer!

Steph
Asher's mom

Christina said...

I can't imagine someone telling you any cancer is a GOOD cancer! Lord have mercy! Praying for all these kids.

Childlife said...

This post really hit home with me - I watched my sister suffer through another so-called 'good cancer' - Hodgkins Lymphoma. I saw her suffer as chemo and radiation failed - something that 'never happens'. My heart broke as she endured months in the hospital transplant unit following a stem cell transplant. She is currently in remission, but there is NO SUCH THING as a 'good kind of cancer.' My heart and prayers are with Matthew and his family.

Leah said...

I feel powerless. I have prayers, and I pray for these kids every day, but I feel powerless, but not anywhere near as powerless as you parents feel when you're told your child is sick with a "good cancer". I will continue to pray...it's all I have to offer.

nicki mcfadden said...

Renee my heart is breaking for Matthew. I had a hard time getting through your whole post though fits of angry and tears. I pray that Matthew beats this horrible beast that is robbing him of his childhood.

Mary Lynn said...

I always hated that comment. Always. No cancer is good. Cancer sucks!!! and we need a cure NOW. My fight is now in Sierra's memory to fight for a cure, funding and research. One day we will get it. Yeah Renee, I don't think anyone will ever call it the good cancer at least not in front of me. I will be praying for Matthew.

It is so unfair!!

God bless the Special K's!!!

Mary Lynn (proud mama to Sierra Kesler) www.caringbridge.org/visit/sierrakesler

Lisa Lowrey said...

Wow Renee!!

Thanks for putting it out there so bluntly!!

I'm praying for Matthew. May he win this fight, and may he sail through treatment with few issues.

God bless his precious family!!

Lisa mom to Kambryn
www.caringbridge.org/visit/kambryn

Raising a Vols Fan!! said...

I wanted to thank you for all your nice comments, I'm so glad you are following along with us. Wow, your posts are moving and powerful. I'm praying for these kids.

momof4as said...

I don't think "good" and "cancer" can ever be in the same sentence unless the word "remission" is also involved... but "good" cancer, never. Praying for Matthew.

Kristen said...

I think that I want to link your post. It is so perfectly written. You take the words out of my mouth. I am so heartbroken for Matthew and his family. I do remember our oncologist telling me on day 1 that if we were going to have cancer, this was the one to have. So, I guess that was kind of the same thing or just simply trying to comfort a distraught and alone mother of a very sick 2 year old little boy. Those are days that you never, ever forget if you are in this club that we wish we had never joined. And, it is not good. It sucks. Cancer sucks. No if's, and's, or but's.

somebody's mama said...

love, love, love...all my love to you and all the families you mention here.

Lori & Family said...

Renee,

Wow what a powerful post. I love your family and read your blog daily. I am praying for all of you and now for Matthew. You are amazing. God is Good all of the time and he is in control. Praying that when his plan for these families happens and that the pain is little and losses few.

Judy said...

Dear Renee, you have such a way with words. This story is so true! Though my son didn't have cancer, he did have a BMT, and that was rough enough. I saw many children fight this horrid disease and it breaks my heart. I pray for Matthew and his family daily, as well as you and your family, and Logan and his family, and Austin and his. I pray for God to do away with all cancers, especially from children. Thank you so much for this post, I am sure it touched many hearts.

Lea White said...

So absolutely beautifully written! I agree 100% with you. Cancer and easy don't belong in the same sentence - doesn't matter what kind.


Lea White
Wellington, New Zealand
http://whitesinnz.blogspot.com
http://bravefighters.synthasite.com

Brent & Jodie said...

Thank you so much. Thank you so, so much! I am sobbing right now. Everything you described is everything I feel when I hear that "at least Tyler has the "good" kind of cancer." Can I link this post on my blog?? You are such an inspiration to me!!

Robin T said...

So I can tell by reading your blog you went out and found some much better, more compassionate and understanding friends!!!! There can be no good cancer - thanks for your eloquent post, and for links to all those kiddos who need our support.
Robin

Theresa said...

I've heard that way too often...and lymphoma is also called a good cancer. No cancer is good. Nothing about cancer is good.

Just know that I will slap them for me and you!

I am catching up on your blog. The last post was 'Where's the Pool'. I don't know how you have the time to blog so much. You amaze me.

Love T

gracenwilk said...

Such a wonderful blogsite and a powerful blog, Renee. We continue to pray for Kennedy and thank God for giving you such a ministry as this one. May the Good Lord be with you all on this healing journey, supplying your needs through every challeng.
Praying,
Mark & Linda (Little D's Aunt & Uncle)

Michelle said...

oh my, I've never heard of it being referred to as the "good" cancer - I can't imagine being told that after your child was just dx...how awful. Will keep Matthew in my prayers.

Anne said...

Yeah, nothing good about cancer, particularly leukemia. And I'm speaking from personal experience!

Crys said...

Thanks Renee. I distinctly remember hearing the words "pre-B cell" and knew it was ALL. Even my first thoughts were "at least it's not..." but it's still rough. For me the worst was taking him out of daycare, listening him cry over missing his friends, and now, the limp that's not going away...

So thanks again for reminding everyone that kids get cancer, too, and it really sucks.

www.caringbridge.org/visit/jacksonvernon

Crystal

Jen said...

Is cancer good? NO! Of course not. However, when my family was plowing through our own cancer battle (my sister was diagnosed with Thyroid Cancer at 19), I was the one going around saying that of all the cancers to get, that was probably the best one to have. If you had to get cancer.

I suppose I didn't go so far as to say that it is the "good" cancer, but the people who unknowingly say those things generally are caring and trying to offer some hope in a desparate and horrifying situation.

Thankfully, after a thyroidectomy and months of radioactive iodine therapy, my sister is fine. She was exhausted for the first few months and slept or wept all the time (your thyroid pretty much controls your metabolism) and she'll have to take Synthroid for the rest of her life, but she's fine now.

No cancer is "good", but there ARE some that are "better" (or "less bad", if you will) than others. I think it's OK to say that.

Adria Sha said...

Thank for you saying this, and saying it so well.

Anonymous said...

Hi I have been researching about acai berry and i was wonderinf if you have heard of the research being done with this natural supplement. This fruit can help many sickness including leukemia.
http://news.ufl.edu/2006/01/12/berries/
At this website, it shows research that has been done. Please google acai and see what you come up with. I believe it could be the key to helping Matthew get better. It is a berry from the amazon. I am praying for you all! God bless.