Friday, January 21, 2011

In The Beginning....

I want to post what we are doing and going thru daily but since we are starting this 2 months in, I would also like to go back and post a bit of what we have already been through. So please be patient with the back and forth of it all until I am caught up.

I knew something wasn’t right but I didn’t think it was anything serious. Joel was tired, he got a little sick and felt under the weather. He just didn’t seem to bounce back. Teenage boys are usually up for a good time. Joel would still go out with his friends but for the next day or two he would sleep all day on the couch. He still kept up with his school work, kept his grades up, played his guitar, continued to work 2 or 3 days a week, he went out with friends and to youth group every week.
In the middle of November I made him a doctors appointment and didn't give him a choice in the matter. He went for a quick check up on November 22nd and had blood work done on the 23rd. He was called back into the office on the 25th and diagnosed with Pancytopenia which just means that all his blood counts were low. We were told that it was most likely caused by a virus (maybe mono) and that they would like to do more tests. They did not think it was leukemia at that time due to his low white cell count. We went home and googled Pancetopenia and read thru the list of 20 things it might be. An appointment was made for Joel to have a bone marrow test done on the morning of November 29th. Joel was called back to the doctors office the same afternoon and was diagnosed with leukemia. His response was to laugh…. A private joke between him and Brayden. It was off to the clinic for a chest x-ray, home for a few hours, back to the hospital for more blood work, home for the night and then off to Vancouver in the morning. When we spoke to Children’s Hospital on the evening of November 29th, they said you will be coming down for more than a few days. Here it is the middle of January and we are planning our first few days home at the end of the month. It is all still a bit of a blur.

Who get’s leukemia? The exact cause in unknown but there have been many studies done and it has been linked to a few factors
1. Genetic factors - Kids that have been diagnosed with a syndrome or certain chromosomal abnormalities have a higher risk of getting leukemia then children who do not have these genetic disorders.
2. Environmental factors - exposure to radiation, toxic chemicals, prenatal exposure to x-rays, exposure to benzene (an industrial chemical), and certain types of chemotherapy have all been linked to childhood leukemia.
Studies have been done to see whether or not things like electromagnetic fields (power lines), mobile phones, exposure to herbicides or pesticides, jet fuel, mothers use of alcohol during pregnancy, diet rich in processed meat (hot dogs). But none of these studies have been conclusive.
Leukemia in some of these circumstances may occur in clusters.
3. Viral infection- Many researchers believe that a virus or a series of viral infections can cause a mutation (mistakes in DNA synthesis) in the developing cell. The body fails to recognize and destroy the new leukemia cell and soon it has invaded and taken over the body.
4. There is a possible link between leukemia and the way in which vitamin K supplements were given at birth. Children given an injection of vitamin K have a higher risk than children given the oral supplement.

My assumption is that #3 applies to Joel.  I am currently looking into whether or not #4 applies.

A little extra information -
Benzene is a known Carcinogen. In the past it was used for decaffeinating coffee, as an aftershave and as a solvent. Today it is still used as an additive to gasoline but in much lower doses than it once was. It is also used in the making of plastics, nylon, adhesives, pesticides, rubber, dyes, drugs, explosives and detergents. It is also used by oil refineries, gasoline related industries, chemical plants and shoe manufactures. Tobacco smoke, motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions also contain low levels of benzene.

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