On January 19, 2017, Eli took his last dose of chemotherapy, ending five years and four months of treatment for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). He was only 20 months old when he was diagnosed in September of 2011. Eli is now a very active and talkative 7 year-old in first grade.
Eli was in remission within two weeks of the start of his treatment. Most leukemia treatment plans have 6 months of intense treatment, followed by 2 ½ to 3 years of maintenance therapy. Eli finished his treatment in November 2015. At this time, he was in pre-school and enjoying it. He would turn five in December, and we thought we were in the clear.
We were elated when he finished treatment. It was close to Thanksgiving and we were celebrating. But, it was hard to quit worrying. We feared the cancer would come back. In early January, our fears came true. The good news was that it was an isolated relapse. This, combined with the fact that he had just finished treatment would turn out to be a good sign for his prognosis. When we told him his cancer was back, he rolled his eyes as if to say "oh great, not again."
Eli was much sicker after treatment this time around. He had longer hospital stays. He lost his hair again. He didn’t mind that so much when he was two. But, at 5, he was a little more self-conscious. He did shave his own head once his hair started falling out! Radiation was, by far, the most difficult part for him. Eli had to receive chemotherapy in the morning, then travel an hour to a radiotherapy lab, and be left alone and strapped down while he received the radiation (which lasted less than a minute). He received 12 doses of radiation. By the 8th, he was calm and back to being a “pro.” The technicians loved him.
Eli has been able to play T-ball and soccer, attend school, and do things most kids get to do. His teachers remark that they often forget that he’s sick. It’s been a long journey, and our worries about a second relapse are still there. We do know that Eli’s little brother, Everett, is a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant, and he has a healthy supply of T-Cells stored at Cincinnati Children’s waiting for him in case he does. As I write this, on February 8, 2017, we received news that Eli’s last bone marrow biopsy, which was sent to a specialized lab in Seattle for a Minimal Residual Disease panel, shows no detectable leukemia cells.