After a series of doctor appointments and a variety of antibiotics to clear an ear infection that wouldn’t go away, one morning we found Arden breathing in a manner that I could only relate to a dog panting. Concerning, we took her to urgent care. The urgent care doctor checked her oxygen levels, and found that she wasn’t saturating oxygen very well at all, and asked if we would like her to call an ambulance, or if we would like to drive her to the ER ourselves.
We immediately rushed her to Renown in Reno, where after a series of tests, it was discovered that she had a swollen spleen and liver, as well as very low white blood cell counts. During her few hours at Renown, she received a blood transfusion, breathing treatment, and IV antibiotics. As her condition continued to deteriorate, we were told that she likely had leukemia, and had only about 20 seconds to process that information as they needed to order a private medical airplane to fly her and my wife to the UCSF Children’s Hospital in Oakland. Arden was in critical condition, and become completely unresponsive during flight. Upon arrival in Oakland, Arden also was diagnosed with pneumonia, and was placed in her own private negative air pressure room where both doctors and parents would have to go through two separate sets of doors just to interact with her, as her immune system was so compromised.
Two days later, Arden had the first of many bone marrow and spinal fluid samplings while sedated, to confirm that she did in fact have leukemia, and the specific kind. We spent 10 days in the hospital initially, where Arden has multiple blood and platelet transfusions, chemo, and was on IV antibiotics every eight hours for the duration of her stay. She had a IV port surgically placed in her chest before leaving Oakland, so that the doctors can administer chemo without having an IV needle jammed into an arm vein. This port also allows for faster dilution of chemo, lessening the risk of killing a smaller vein that the very toxic chemo is pumped into.
2016 was a rough year. We, along with the support of our friends and families, adapted our lives to care for Arden. Public spaces were off limits, and we isolated ourselves, limiting our interactions with others due to her compromised state. We spent a couple weeks in hospitals in both Reno and Oakland for planned treatments and unplanned illnesses. Arden was able to come home from the hospital in Oakland on Christmas Eve day, and later that evening my wife and I held back tears and tried to keep our composure as we cut the last remaining clumps of hair from her mostly bald head. A week later, she had her last intensive chemo session, is now technically in remission, and had 13 months of lower dose and less frequent maintenance chemo.
As of 2020, almost four years after that fateful day, Arden is in remission, has all of her hair back, and is a happy and healthy first grader. Aside from bloodwork and doctor visits every other month, she has the life of a normal, healthy child. Although she is in remission, we don't get a a "cancer free" diagnosis until she has been off treatment for 10 years, that will be the early Fall of 2028, when she's 15 years old.
Thank you so much for your attention and donation to help bring more awareness to childhood cancer, and hopefully eradicate it with funding more research. Also, if you are blood donor, thank you so much, your donations do go somewhere…perhaps to a little three year old girl with leukemia in Sparks.