Parents of a Childhood Cancer Survivor Share Words of Wisdom

Ten years in the past, Krissy and Rob Pitts of Free Union, Virginia, bought devastating information. The earaches and fevers plaguing Anna — their youngest daughter, not but 2 years outdated — turned out to be the commonest most cancers of childhood — acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Utterly blindsided, they entered a complete new world of therapy and uncertainty. They watched their toddler spend 2½ years in chemotherapy. It wasn’t a given. However immediately, Krissy and Rob have a wholesome 12-year-old childhood most cancers survivor.

Reflecting again, the couple has phrases of knowledge for folks simply beginning on the childhood most cancers journey. First, their backstory.

Anna’s toddler years had been interrupted by 2 1/2 years of most cancers therapy.

When Krissy & Rob Turned Dad and mom of a Most cancers Fighter

In 2011, their Anna was a fun-loving toddler who beloved to bounce. However then, for seemingly no purpose, she stopped strolling. In September that yr, Anna turned certainly one of some 3,000 youngsters within the U.S. to be identified with ALL. Leukemia is a most cancers of the blood cells and sometimes strikes within the toddler years to age 5.

The silver lining? Anna’s kind of most cancers has the best treatment fee. “One of these leukemia is without doubt one of the nice success tales of pediatric oncology over the previous 30 years,” says Brian Belyea, MD, UVA Youngsters’s pediatric oncologist. “Once I was Anna’s age, the survival fee was 60%. At the moment, the survival fee for what she had is 90%.”

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And the final decade has seen one other breakthrough: “Within the 10 years since we handled Anna for leukemia,” Belyea says, “we’ve new medicine for sufferers who don’t reply to preliminary therapy and have relapsed illness. This offers much more youngsters an opportunity to turn out to be most cancers survivors.”

Anna jumping
With childhood most cancers behind her, Anna is prospering immediately as a aggressive gymnast.

From Toddler Leukemia Fighter to Tween Aggressive Gymnast

Belyea remembers assembly Anna at 18 months outdated — the youngest of his sufferers. “She was so brave,” he shares. “The therapy was arduous. It made her sick. However there she was, enjoying and being the social butterfly of the hospital unit.” Anna was a “fast responder.” She had an preliminary 12-day in a single day hospital keep. Inside 7 days, her most cancers was gone. Extra years of outpatient remedy “made certain we killed each final leukemia cell,” Belyea says. The success has continued. Anna’s confirmed no indicators of leukemia since.

At the moment, Anna is a wholesome 6th grader and childhood most cancers survivor. She nonetheless enjoys dancing. On a aggressive gymnastics staff, Anna competes on the state stage. She likes going to UVA sporting occasions and spending time with household and buddies. “She’s fortunate to have the ability to do the whole lot {that a} regular 12-year-old can do,” mother Krissy shares.

Simply Beginning on the Childhood Most cancers Journey? What to Know

As dad and mom of a kid most cancers survivor, Krissy and Rob share what they discovered.

What’s one thing you would like you had identified firstly? 

Three issues stand out:

  1. I bear in mind somebody telling us to not let our highs get “too excessive” or our lows get “too low.” The childhood most cancers journey is definitely filled with ups and downs. You’re going to have days harder than you could have ever imagined. And different days whenever you cry with happiness. No matter occurs, don’t cease shifting.
  2. One other key piece of recommendation? Keep as a lot normalcy as potential. Little issues — like playdates or household dinners that had been as soon as taken without any consideration — can rapidly increase everybody’s spirits and brighten a day.
  3. When household and buddies provide to assist, take them up on it! You’ll look again and be blown away by the outpouring of assist proven throughout the journey. It’s one thing you’ll always remember.
Anna sitting next to her sister Grace
Anna’s older sister, Grace, (on proper) visited Anna daily when she was within the hospital for most cancers therapy.

You talked about Anna doesn’t bear in mind a lot about her most cancers therapy. However does she have any lasting impressions?

Anna doesn’t bear in mind a lot concerning the therapy itself. However she remembers the friendships she made alongside the best way. She’ll always remember the UVA Youngsters’s docs, nurses, and hospital employees who turned such an enormous a part of her life throughout these years. She all the time seems ahead to seeing everybody at clinic appointments and UVA fundraising occasions. 

She does bear in mind portray at preschool within the hospital and using the wagon within the halls. I vividly bear in mind Anna within the pink wagon with huge sister Grace pulling her. And me or Rob pushing her IV pole. It is a picture that can by no means escape me. Grace got here daily to see her sister within the hospital. The bond the 2 of them shared was very particular. 

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Have you ever put this chapter behind you? Or do you all the time fear about most cancers coming again? The harm brought on by therapy on her rising physique?

There’ll all the time be a sure stage of tension that stays with you. Hopefully the nervousness decreases over time.

We do fear concerning the long-term results brought on by therapy. The staff on the survivorship clinic does an ideal job of preserving us knowledgeable concerning the issues we have to look ahead to. To date, Anna has been very fortunate. She hasn’t skilled any of the long-term results.

Do you keep in contact with different households who confronted childhood most cancers? Does that type of assist assist?

We do keep in contact with loads of households that we’ve crossed paths with alongside the best way. There’s a particular bond between childhood most cancers households that’s robust to explain. Native assist teams offer you that distinctive potential to speak with others who’ve skilled the identical factor you’re going by means of. It’s extremely vital to have that kind of assist, particularly early within the journey.

Do you assist unfold the phrase about childhood most cancers, in hopes to direct extra analysis funding?

childhood cancer survivor Anna running with her dog

We attempt to be very lively in fundraising for childhood most cancers analysis. There’s a crucial want for newer, less-toxic childhood most cancers remedies. Funding analysis and scientific trials is vital to creating all of it occur.

We’ve advised Anna’s story many instances at native fundraising occasions and even had the chance to talk at a few nationwide occasions. It’s feeling to be concerned with organizations that attempt to place an finish to childhood most cancers. I look ahead to the day when there’s a treatment! Collectively we’re preventing for the long run each youngster deserves and each mother or father goals of.

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What had been the most important issues the UVA Youngsters’s care staff did that made a distinction for your loved ones?

The UVA Youngsters’s care staff was nothing wanting superb. They do what they do for all the correct causes! From the second we walked in, we acquired nothing however one of the best care. The docs, nurses, and hospital employees made us really feel like household.

When a 2-year-old seems ahead to an oncology appointment, I believe it is protected to say that the staff is doing one thing very proper! Anna would look ahead to the times that she wanted to go to clinic. We had been totally anticipating a struggle sooner or later when she realized the place we had been heading. That did not occur.

We predict Anna’s need to see her docs and nurses outweighed these different issues. We are going to always remember how the UVA employees made our household really feel and our eternal friendship with so lots of them.

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