Annie – A loving soul

“I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use
The tools and gifts we got yeah, we got a lot at stake
And in the end, you’re still my friend at least we did intend
For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn
We had to learn how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I’ve got, and what I’m not
And who I am “        The world according to Annie 

Can you imagine being 4 years old and being diagnosed with cancer?  Can you imagine if you are the parents of that child?

It is truly heart-wrenching and overwhelming when I learned the stories of some of the kids that I have met over the past couple of years with my Childhood Cancer volunteer activities.  One beautiful soul that I met through the Teen Ontario East Pageant is Annie, a childhood cancer survivor of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  Annie was that 4 year old child who’s childhood life changed with her cancer diagnosis.

Annie (front left) beside me in the Teen Ontario East Pageant’s Tribute to Childhood Cancer Champions

Annie’s parents were concerned when she didn’t have the energy that a 4 year old would normally have and she didn’t seem to have much of an appetite.  A trip to CHEO’s emergency department and some bloodwork indicated Annie had leukemia; Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (better known as A.L.L.)

Annie exhibited the common signs of Childhood A.L.L.  According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada some of the other signs and symptoms are as follows;

  • Fever
  • Easy bruising or bleeding.
  • Petechiae (flat, pinpoint-like dark red spots under the skin caused by bleeding)
  • Bone and/or joint pain
  • Painless lumps in the neck, underarm, stomach or groin area
  • Pain or feeling of fullness below the ribs.
  • Weakness, feeling tired, or looking pale.
  • Loss of appetite
  • Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is the most common type of the childhood cancers. It is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow and will worsen quickly if not treated immediately.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia is the most common type of childhood cancer and occurs when a child’s bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells).  It can affect red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.  Acute lymphoblastic leukemia invades the blood and can spread throughout the body to other organs, such as the liver, spleen and lymph nodes.  It does not normally produce tumors like other types of cancer but it is an acute type of leukemia, which means it can progress quickly.

According to research published by the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.

The prognosis (chance of recovery) depends on:

  • How quickly and how low the leukemia cell count drops after the first month of treatment.
  • Age at the time of diagnosis, gender, race, and ethnic background.
  • The number of white blood cells in the blood at the time of diagnosis.
  • Whether the leukemia cells began from B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes.
  • Whether there are certain changes in the chromosomes or genes of the lymphocytes with cancer.
  • Whether the child has Down syndrome.
  • Whether leukemia cells are found in the cerebrospinal fluid.
  • The child’s weight at the time of diagnosis and during treatment.

Treatment options depend on:

  • Whether the leukemia cells began from B lymphocytes or T lymphocytes.
  • Whether the child has standard-risk, high-risk, or very high–risk ALL.
  • The age of the child at the time of diagnosis.
  • Whether there are certain changes in the chromosomes of lymphocytes, such as the Philadelphia chromosome.
  • Whether the child was treated with steroids before the start of induction therapy.
  • How quickly and how low the leukemia cell count drops during treatment.

Because of acute lymphoblastic leukemia’s (A.L.L.’s) rapid growth, most patients need to start chemotherapy soon after diagnosis. During chemotherapy, Annie was  given potent drugs that had to be toxic enough to damage or kill leukemic cells. At the same time, these aggressive drugs  can take aim at normal cells and cause side effects.

Cancer protocols (treatment plans) can vary for each child depending on the stage of their cancer and their age.  Most A.L.L. childhood protocols will include high-dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell transplant.  In Annie’s case, she underwent two and a half years of high-dose chemotherapy and became a “frequent flyer” at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.  Imagine two and a half years of chemotherapy at the age of 4!  That is not the way a child is supposed to spend their kindergarten years!

Annie with Molly Penny, therapeutic Clown at CHEO

Despite what she was going through, one of the moms that I spoke with who was in the hospital with her daughter when Annie was there said you would never see Annie without her uplifting smile.  She would dress up and clown with Molly Penny the therapeutic clown at CHEO and would hand out funny stickers to the other kids who were just a sick as she was.  Annie fought through her intense and lengthy chemotherapy protocol and then immediately got involved in several charity events to benefit CHEO her home away from home.

I think that is what amazes me most about the cancer champions that I have had the privilege to meet; their passion for giving back and making a difference.  Annie became very active in the CHEO community fund raising, acting as a spokesperson and representative at several fund raising events.

Annie’s passion for making a difference and her determination to do something to help others were key factors in her being chosen as the CHEO Champion.

Children’s Miracle Network Champions presented by Walmart Canada is an awareness program designed to educate communities on the life-saving work being done at member hospitals and the role that Children’s Miracle Network plays in supporting them. Each year, Children’s Miracle Network hospitals identify a remarkable child to serve as their Champion. As ambassadors, these patients represent more than two million children and youth treated at Children’s Miracle Network member hospitals each year in Canada. “

A young Annie honoured as CHEO Champion

As CHEO Champion, Annie represented CHEO at an international gathering of young champions at Disney in Orlando, Florida.

Annie is now a beautiful young woman who has recently completed her first year of university.  I cannot express enough how in awe I am of these amazing champions.  Young cancer survivors like Annie who took on this incredible battle and managed to get through it and turn the devastation into a motivating factor to make a difference.

Annie’s favourite quote from Patch Adams

I am inspired everyday,

Sophia

 

Written by: Sophia Tagged with:, , , , , , , ,
Posted On: Categories:Charity Platform

One Response to Childhood Cancer Awareness – Annie’s Story Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

  1. avatar Patti Dillabough says:

    A wonderful post about an incredible young woman. Thanks for capturing Annie’s story!

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