Contributed by Amber WakefieldOur journey began in April of 2010, so we are “babies” on this trip! My son, Colby was in 7th grade--a normal 13-year-old who liked to play sports, was busy with his church, and was, overall, a great kid. He still is!!
Colby started coming home from school with huge bruises on his arms or legs. To be honest, I thought he was being bullied at school, and somebody was hurting him. He kept on insisting that the bruises were from basketball or games in PE. Well, the mom’s intuition kept nagging in the back of my brain and time went on for a bit more, but I always felt as if something was wrong.
The next things we noticed were huge-looking hives, along with the bruises. Benadryl would make them go away for the duration of the medication but they would come right back. Finally, I took him to our family doctor, and he, thinking Colby was allergic to something, referred us to an allergist. So…to allergy testing we went: No allergies were revealed, so a blood test was written up. We went later that same day to have his blood drawn, and then headed home.
So began our entry into the world of a thing called Evans.
At 4:00 a.m. the next morning the allergist called to tell us Colby needed to go immediately to Children’s Mercy Hospital. My husband didn’t understand what the doctor was saying, so I took the phone. The doctor proceeded to tell me that Colby's platelet count was at 4 (or 4,000, as I would later come to learn). Too many numbers and not enough explanation; they are all still so confusing at times! The doctor also explained that if we didn't go, Colby could bleed to death. So we lay in bed and, of course, I cried: The immediate thought in my head was that it was cancer or leukemia of some sort.
We decided Colby was safe in bed, and so waited until his two older sisters were up for school and told them what little we knew. They were a little upset but headed off to school with lots of texts going back and forth. We got Colby up, and told him about the phone call. We explained that we needed to head to Children’s Mercy in downtown Kansas City.
As testing continued, I realized how blessed we are to have a Children’s hospital within 20 minutes of our home. I ran into many people that traveled for hours for their child’s treatment, or would have to use the wonderful downtown Ronald McDonald House facilities. I will never complain about traffic, or the drive, because we could always come home or have family come to us.
By this time, I am a mess but trying to contain it for my son’s sake. I didn’t want him to worry or be afraid. They kept taking more blood, and finally put in a port. My prayers increased. They started off telling us Colby had ITP but more assumptions were to come. Cancer was on the list but pretty far down. The doctor-on-call saw my reaction to the work and, again, tried to reassure me that cancer probably wasn’t causing the anomalous blood counts.
Eventually they took Colby up to the hematology/oncology unit—no comfort at all. My heart ached for these parents and all they have had and will continue to endure. I still pray for those families and what must undergo. As a side note, my freshman daughter, who plays soccer, was participating in the annual Cancer Battler Cup against their rival high school. I had that T-shirt on and was still reminded of what could be.
Colby received two bags of platelets that evening but they were eaten up within 12 hours, his counts returning almost back to where he began. This gave the doctors the direction to lean to Evans and away from cancer. My husband, who never cries, broke down in tears. He had been in Colby’s room praying for him and was relieved as we all were!!
So now the Google searches began! We did exactly what they told us not to do because there wasn’t much (and still isn’t much) information out in cyberspace. We also found out his red and white counts were low but not too bad.
They sent us home the next day with orders to come back later the following week for a bone marrow aspiration. We learned this was needed in order to confirm the “no cancer” diagnosis, since steroids are the first treatment generally given for Evans. With that test behind us, and again no cancer, Colby went on an horrendous regiment of steroids, to the tune of 300mg.
It is appalling what this drug (corticosteroids) does to the body!! Colby lost a part of himself during that time. My son who normally is loving, outgoing, and will laugh at anything, became withdrawn, depressed, and quiet. He hated it, I hated it, but most of all kids at school found something for them direct their stupidity towards. He started his 8th grade year, looking like somebody else and feeling abnormal. We almost pulled him out to home school but he wanted to keep on going and things eventually calmed down. His school was great and did whatever was needed to accommodate him.
“Remission” lasted almost a year. Colby was and still is good about pointing out bruises or rashes. We went back in and blood work showed a big drop again so this time they did rituximab but without steroids!! Colby asked me in the car on our way home after finding out his counts had dropped, “Do I have a say in all of this?” I said, “of course.” This was the day he decided, never again on the steroids unless it is the only treatment!!
Four rounds rituximab of later, Colby has been in another “remission” for almost a year now!! His last set of blood work showed even more of a raise in platelets, red, and white cell counts. We don’t have to go back to the doctor for another 6 months, unless he shows signs of its return.
All during this time, our church prayed and continues to pray for Colby. There is much comfort in knowing others are on this road with us, and that no matter what happens, the Lord will never leave us. The end result may not yield what we want, but the lessons learned will always be priceless.
Colby has given up the sports but has found a new passion with acting and singing. He found his voice in a new way and has a heart that is bigger than a mom could ever imagine. For that, I am grateful for this path called Evans.
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