In early 2019, four-year-old Ben was constantly getting sick. In a short time, he dealt with strep, an ear infection, and two different strains of the flu. When he started getting pain in his hips that made him unable to walk, his family realized there was something more going on.
Several pediatrician visits led them to the emergency room, where the doctors suspected leukemia and sent them on further to the oncology department. Ben's bone marrow biopsy revealed that his marrow was completely necrotic—meaning that few cells were present, making it hard to diagnose him at all. After two long weeks of testing, including numerous rounds of bloodwork and four bone marrow biopsies, Ben was finally diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). "Needless to say, we felt incredibly anxious and fearful, but tried our best to comfort and reassure our very confused and ill little boy," Ben's mother, Maggie, recalls.
The drawn-out diagnosis process, and the chemotherapy that followed, were tough for Ben and his family. The constant blood draws and hospital visits were traumatic, as they would be for any child Ben's age. Isolation was another challenge: after nearly a year of frontline treatment, Ben was just three days away from joining his kindergarten class when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. That meant that his family had to take intense distancing precautions to protect his fragile immune system.
But over time, things started to look up. After trying multiple strategies, Ben's family finally found the mental health support he needed through a combination of play therapy and medication. He finished treatment in June of 2022, and has rejoined his classmates. "He had a lot of ground to make up, but he works incredibly hard every day and we are so proud of him," Maggie shares.
These days, Ben loves all things fantasy. He spends most days in costume, weaving stories about dragons, wizards, elves, and other magical beings. He also loves to swim, read, and build with Legos. Now that he's done with treatment, Ben says he's most looking forward to spending more time with his friends and getting into all sorts of adventures out in the world!