It’s Scary Sometimes

Being weighed on the industrial sized scale at Blank Children's Hospital isn't scary, but Breslyn Hurt reaches for her mother's hand anyway.

"You're getting so big," says her mother, Laura Werstein.

Breslyn is eight months into treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, more commonly known as ALL.  She was diagnosed in July of 2016.

After taking her vitals, nurses prep Breslyn for a blood draw from her port, a device implanted into the right side of her chest.  It's also where her chemotherapy is administered.  Everyone within three feet of Breslyn dons a mask to lessen the threat of infection.

"Which mask are you going to make mom where today?" asks the nurse.

Breslyn chooses the Mickey Mouse mask for mom.  The nurse places a larger, adult mask on Breslyn.  Breslyn begins to whimper then launches into a full-fledged scream.  This is where things start to get scary - for Breslyn and mom.  If her blood counts are off, Breslyn won't be able to receive chemotherapy today.

"It scares me, because I’m like, 'Is she not getting what she needs? Is she going to get worse?,'" says Laura.  "Then it’s kind of like a waiting game.  They might have to give her a blood transfusion or antibiotics."

On this day, the red and white blood cell counts are good.  Breslyn and her mom walk hand in hand to the office next door for chemotherapy.

"When Breslyn was diagnosed she had to go through an intense month of chemo," says Christopher Rokes, M.D., one of Breslyn's oncologists.  "But at the end of that month her leukemia was in remission."

Breslyn is now receiving maintenance chemotherapy once a month.  It prevents the Leukemia from breaking through or adapting to the therapy.  Cancer drugs are also delivered directly to the brain via a spinal tap every three months.

"Studies show if you don't do that, if the Leukemia comes back it comes back in the brain which is hard to treat," says Dr. Rokes.

 

The treatment isn't a sure thing.  Leukemia still kills more kids than any other disease.  But advancements over the last 50 years have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

"Back in the 1950's, 1960's, it was basically a death sentence," says Dr. Rokes.  "Now a case like her we have over a 90-percent survival rate."

 

It will be at least ten years before doctors can declare Breslyn cured.  Unitl then, they push through the scary times and focus on the positive.

"Their whole treatment is hard," says Dr. Rokes.  "But if we can have little gains every day or bring a smile to them, that's a positive."