Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Chemotherapy begun in little Zoey’s
battle with acute leukemia
One of the
finest things about
granddaughter, Zoey Albritton,
is in good hands there. None of her family members is complaining about having
to take her there for treatment twice a week. There are plenty of volunteers
willing to make the 200-mile trip.
extensive tests were completed, the doctors diagnosed Zoey’s
illness as acute lymphocytic leukemia. This was the
The good news, however, was that
treatment results in remission and recovery in about 70 per cent of the cases.
There is a worse kind of leukemia for which there is only a 45 per cent chance
A popular commercial asks the
question, “How do you spell relief?” When you are not sure whether your sick
child is going to live or die, relief is hearing a caring, competent doctor
say, “We believe there is a good chance your child can recover through the
medical treatment we are prescribing.”
So chemotherapy treatments began
the day after the diagnosis. They will continue for 30 days. After a month of
chemo, the doctors should be able to determine if the medicine will cause a
remission of the disease.
If it does, then the treatment will
continue for probably two and a half years. If there is not a remission, then
more stringent measures will be taken -- mainly the use of radiation along with
Having the hope of recovery is a
great blessing. As a pastor I have sat with many people in consultation rooms
when a grim-faced doctor had to say, “I regret so much that I must tell you
there is no chance of recovery for your loved one.”
There are incurable illnesses.
There are times when even the most skilled doctor cannot prevent the death of a
So to learn that Zoey has a 70 percent chance of recovery lifted our
spirits. None of us wants her to endure the pain of needles and treatments for
more than two years, but we can embrace that if it is the price of her healing.
How well I remember when my wife
and I sat down across the table from a kind doctor in
What was worse we had not seen it
coming. We knew our little son, David, was sick, but never for a moment had we
suspected the news would be a death sentence.
“David has leukemia,” the doctor
said. “There is no treatment that can cure it; we can only make him as
comfortable as possible until the end.”
“You mean he is going to die?” I
asked with my voice trembling. The doctor said nothing but nodded to confirm my
After several moments of silence,
as tears filled our eyes, I asked, “How long before he dies?”
The doctor explained that there was
no way of knowing for sure. Then he said, “My best guess is that he could live
from two weeks to two years.”
The only hope that kindly doctor
could offer us was the possibility there might be a breakthrough in medical
research and a cure discovered before David died.
In the weeks that followed David
received some temporary relief from blood transfusions. Each one was strongly
resisted by David who, then in his third year, kept begging me not to let the
nurses hurt him. I choked so many times on the words, “It’s for your own good,
son.” I am sure he never understood why I permitted the nurses to hurt him.
As David’s condition worsened, the
transfusions became more frequent, until finally we were told there was no
reason to do them any longer. They had done all the good they could do. David
was relieved, not realizing that this decision signaled the nearing of the end
of his life.
He died in my arms at daybreak one
morning in May, a little more than three years old. He had lived nine months
since his diagnosis with acute leukemia.
While Dean and I were heartbroken by his
death, we were also relieved that David’s days of pain and misery were finally
over. Leukemia, a word we had come to hate, and a word we can never forget, had
won. We had lost in our desperate effort to keep David alive.
Since David’s death Dean and I have
helped with at least a score of drives to raise money for leukemia research.
Research has paid off. A diagnosis of leukemia is no longer a death sentence
for a child or an adult.
Perhaps the few dollars we have
given and helped to raise for the Leukemia Foundation have helped a little in
the search for a cure for leukemia. We hope so.
The breakthrough Dr. T. Forte
Bridges spoke to us about did not come in time to help our David. But it has
come in recent years. And while a complete cure has not been found yet, the
chance of recovery is now greater than ever before.
How fortunate, then, that children
like our little Zoey now have a good chance for
remission, recovery, and a normal life beyond the dreadful struggle with that
demon called leukemia.
How blessed are we also that
children stricken with diseases like leukemia can receive the finest treatment
available anywhere at our own Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.