Our world changed on September 11, 2008, the day we were told our little girl had cancer. I remember everything about that day, the room where they took us to tell us the devastating news, the tears, the innocent look on my sweet girl’s face as she had no idea what lay ahead for her. About three months before her diagnosis she was having trouble walking, her joints would swell up, she was not eating like she normally did and she was sleepy all the time. A trip to the pediatrician only gave us answers of needing more iron in her diet, pulled muscles and once they even told us she was making it up for attention. In my gut I knew something was NOT right. I knew and I had had enough. I demanded that the ER doctors do every test they could and that I was NOT taking her home until they found out what was wrong! Her white count was very high and the red flag went up, we were then sent to Children's Hospital of Birmingham for bone marrow testing.
In October of 2008 Katelyn was moved to high risk because she did not go into remission right away. This tagged on 6 more months of chemotherapy and stronger medicines. Over the course of her treatment she has endured many spinal taps, bone marrow biopsies, MRI's, CT scans, echo cardiograms, surgeries, painful peg shots, lost her hair twice, lost 30 pounds, had to be fed through a tube, had painful ulcers in her mouth and a throat that would bleed. It was horrible to see my sweet girl continuously bleeding from her mouth. She suffered grand mal seizures, was in the hospital for weeks from horrible chemo side effects, had two relapse scares, pneumonia, lost her ability to walk, and was wheelchair bound for a while. Now she suffers from horrible and painful neuropathy, has blisters on her skin that will not go away until she develops a normal immune system, missed out on two years of normal school, vomited on a daily basis, her vision has changed several times during the course of her treatment, she has had horrible pancreatitis from the liver damage caused by her medicine, had many blood and platelet transfusions, and several transfusions of antibodies. The hardest part was seeing some of her friends who were fighting alongside her earn their wings.
The diagnosis had affected the whole family. We had three other children at home to take care of as well (the youngest being 3 months old at the time). My sister had to move from Michigan just to help us out with the other children. The emotional, physical and financial stress is very overwhelming at times, but we have faith and hang on to the special moments and memories as well as each other to get us through it.
Katelyn has 8 more months of chemotherapy to go for a total of 3 1/2 years of treatment, after that she will go monthly for lab work if she remains in remission for 5 years. Then she will officially be declared CANCER FREE!!!
Written by Marie Sassin, Katelyn’s Mother