In fact, it was at a swim meet in early February 2018, that parents Tony and Jane noticed something was different about their only son. As Jay completed his laps in the pool, they noticed small red dots on his body—almost rash-like. Concerned, they examined the dots a bit closer and thought back to his recent fatigue and diminishing appetite and decided to take him to a medical clinic.
Health care professionals immediately requested a blood test and a short time later the family was told to go to Victoria General Hospital where physicians delivered the news—Jay had leukemia. The following day, the 11-year-old was transferred to BC Children’s Hospital where he was formally diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML ) and began chemotherapy treatment immediately.
AML is a form of cancer that starts in blood stem cells and requires intensive treatment. Chemotherapy works to deplete cancer cells, but in doing so, it also drops hemoglobin and platelet count. Hemoglobin transfers oxygen and nutrients throughout the body and platelets stop bleeding, making it critical to keep both counts at a certain level. It is for this reason that blood transfusions play a large part in Jay’s treatment – since February he has undergone 36 transfusions to replenish his hemoglobin and platelet count.
“Without blood transfusion, it would be impossible for Jay to undergo chemotherapy,” said Tony. “The support donors’ offer is critical to Jay’s treatment. Words cannot express the gratitude we have to those who give blood – you’ve helped save Jay’s life.”
Today Jay’s cancer is in remission. However, he will remain on a treatment plan for the next six to eight months, which includes chemotherapy. The family is hopeful they will be back home in Victoria by August, just in time for Jay to begin grade seven.
Jane’s message to other parents who may be going through a similar situation, “we stand with you and support you, remember to take good care of yourself and to always stay positive.”
National Blood Donor Week runs from June 11-17 and is a time to celebrate those who make a lifesaving difference for patients in need.
- On average, it can take up to five blood donors to help one child undergoing cancer treatment and up to eight donors a week to help a child with leukemia.
- Leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children ages 0 to 14 years, accounting for more than one third of all cases.
* Above statistics provided by Canadian Blood Services.