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5-year-old waging brave battle with leukemia

Saturday, February 7, 2009

(Photo)
Although he's currently going throught the most intense phase of chemotherapy, one couldn't tell anything is amiss by looking at the grinning face of five-year-old Dylan Jackson. Dylan is battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
DANVILLE -- Brandi Groves is in the midst of one of the most painful things any parent can experience: Her 5-year-old son is battling cancer.

"You go through so many emotions so quickly when you find out your child is ill," she said.

Brandi didn't think anything was terribly amiss when Dylan became ill last year. He complained of a sore throat and his glands were swollen, but Brandi had no reason to believe her son was suffering from anything more severe than a common cold or flu bug.

When Dylan's symptoms persisted and worsened -- Dylan's lymph nodes and the back of his neck became swollen -- Brandi took him to see Lisa Martin, a Greencastle-based pediatrician and internist.

After many tests and medications, a diagnosis was made on Oct. 29.

Dylan had acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

"My first thought was, 'He's going to die,'" Brandi said.

According to information at the American Cancer Society Web site, ALL is one form of leukemia, or cancer of the white blood cells. It is most common in childhood or young adulthood. The peak age for ALL incidence is 4 to 5. The overall cure rate in children is 85 percent.

It develops when malignant (cancerous), immature white blood cells keep multiplying and are overproduced in the bone marrow. ALL can cause damage or death by crowding out normal cells in the bone marrow and spreading to other organs.

If left untreated, ALL can be fatal in weeks.

Brandi works as an administrative assistant in the labor and delivery and intensive care departments at the Putnam County Hospital. Dr. Martin met Brandi after she left work to deliver the alarming news.

"(Dr. Martin) stayed with me for two hours," Brandi said. "She called my husband and dad for me."

Although she has been practicing for several years, Dr. Martin said delivering devastating news to patients never ceases to be difficult.

"It's never easy, especially when it involves someone so young," she said. "All the parent hears is the c-word. All you can do is be there for them.

"I knew this would be part of my job," she continued. "I knew there would be some bad news and some loss. This is one of the things you absolutely hate about your job."

Initially, Brandi and her husband Nick "didn't know what was next," Brandi said.

But then, the couple decided they were going to go full speed ahead and help their son fight the disease that was ravaging his little body.

"We had to get educated," Brandi said.

Immediately after his diagnosis, Dylan was admitted to Riley Children's Hospital in Indianapolis to begin treatment.

"At first, he was really crabby," Brandi said. "He was on steroids, so he was obsessed with food. He was puffy and he didn't look like Dylan, so that was hard."

There are no surgical options for ALL, because the malignant cells are so widely distributed throughout the body. Instead, patients begin with chemotherapy. Which is broken down into three phases.

The goal of the first phase, remission induction, is to quickly kill off most of the malignant cells and get the patient into remission (less than 5 percent leukemic blasts in the bone marrow, normal blood cells and absence of tumor cells in the blood).

Dylan is currently in the second phase of treatment, intensification. This is the most harrowing of the phases.

During this phase, high doses of intravenous multi-drug chemotherapy are administered throughout the body. Multiple lumbar punctures (spinal taps) are used for testing and treatment delivery.

The third phase is maintenance therapy, during which oral and intravenous drugs are used to kill any residual cells not destroyed by the first two phases of treatment. Boys undergo maintenance therapy for three years, girls and adults for two.

Brandi expects Dylan to enter his third phase of treatment sometime in May.

"Dylan has done very well," Dr. Martin said. "His prognosis is very good. Fortunately, he had the type (of leukemia) that has a better prognosis."

Dylan was born in Indianapolis on May 6, 2003. For the first year of Dylan's life, it was just he and his mom -- until Brandi met Nick Groves, who would become her husband and a father figure to Dylan. Three years ago, the Groves family welcomed Dylan's younger brother, Braden.

Dylan's illness has thrown the family into a tailspin, sometimes making even everyday tasks more difficult.

"People have been reminding us to eat and shower," Brandi said. "Sometimes we can walk from one room to the next and forget what we're doing."

Dylan's illness had brought other changes, too.

"We have to be so careful," Brandi said. "If Braden even gets the sniffles, we have to keep him away from Dylan."

Brandi longs for the day when life will return to normal.

"I just hate being so scared and trying to juggle my life," she said. "Before we were in control ... now we're not."

Brandi carries the family's insurance, so she has had to continue working as Dylan has undergone treatment. Nick, an electrician by trade, has taken a hiatus from work and stays home with Dylan and Braden.

Dylan, Brandi said, has remained remarkably upbeat for the most part.

"He surprises me," she said. "He knows he has cancer, but that part doesn't seem to bother him. He just doesn't like taking his medicine or going to the clinic."

Dr. Martin had also seen Dylan's spunk.

"He's a cutie," she said. "He's a very sweet boy. He's actually been a trooper; he's been very brave and hung in there. He's rolled with the punches."

Dylan had been a kindergartener at Danville North Elementary for only a couple of months when he was diagnosed. The school now sends a teacher to his home once a week because Dylan is unable to attend school.

Brandi's co-workers at PCH have been a great source of support.

"They've been amazing," she said. "All the departments have raised money for us. It's been so helpful."

Although the experience of his battle with cancer has been and will continue to be a painful one for Dylan and his family, Brandi said she has already learned some valuable lessons from it.

"It's been hard, but it's brought us so much closer," she said. "We understand family a lot more."


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Very sorry to hear this!!!!Everyone please pray for Dylan!

-- Posted by Buck_Hunter_2008 on Sat, Feb 7, 2009, at 2:31 AM

God will take care of this child and his family.

Pray.

-- Posted by Dagnabbit on Sat, Feb 7, 2009, at 9:31 AM

Dr. Martin also diagnosed my husband with leukemia. She and her staff are the best! Thank God and all of his wonderful doctors my husband is in total remission. We completely understand what you are going through and our prayers and thoughts are with you. May the Lord bless and keep your family!

-- Posted by MY2009 on Sat, Feb 7, 2009, at 3:46 PM

I see alot of people care about Dr. Martin. Thought I would pass this along, her father passed away last night. Please keep her in your prayers as I know she has had many of you in hers.

-- Posted by onetwomany97 on Tue, Feb 10, 2009, at 9:03 AM

Hang in there little one.. GOD BLESS!

-- Posted by agraphic on Tue, Feb 10, 2009, at 10:57 AM


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