Six-year-old Bay City native has leukemia
BAY CITY -- One day last April while at Prairie View Elementary School, Alyxis Lundquist did what many kids her age in the past have done: the six-year-old fell off the monkey bars.
What occurred as a result of that went beyond anyone's possibilities.
"When she fell, she straddled herself and said she was alright," her father Jason explained. "(However) she couldn't walk up the stairs that night to go to bed because her leg hurt.
"I saw this great big lump on her hip and rushed her to the hospital next morning."
Initial thoughts centered around a hernia because that's where the lump was. A CAT scan ruled that out, so the doctors thought it was an infection. Even a rare infection relating to kittens was possibly mentioned. Antibiotics didn't make it go away, which led to a biopsy.
The results of that led Jason and her mother Shannon down a road no parents wants to hear: cancer. After further tests, Alyxis was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) last May. ALL meant she had cancer in her bone marrow, spinal fluids and lymph nodes. The determining factor between cancer and leukemia, Jason said, was the amount of cancer in her spinal fluid, which put her in the leukemia category.
"Shock, surprise, stunned," were some of the words Shannon remembered in describing her reaction.
Jason and Shannon were told ALL is a common type of cancer in kids and the good news, if there was any, was there was a 95 percent chance of not having an occurrence due to her age and gender. (Since she is a female, she will have a better chance of recovery. Doctors have told the two there's been no idea what causes it.)
Questions abounded on whether this had anything to do with genetics. Shannon's family has dealt with cancer in the past as she's had a cousin and uncle die from various forms of cancer, but no association with leukemia.
"She showed no signs," Shannon said. "We're lucky we caught it in time or we never would have realized it."
And that was one of the frustrating things the two have dealt with and still continue to.
"Why her and how did she get it?" Jason said. "It's still hard."
Shannon added, "When she's not doing well and is all on those machines, you start to wonder, why her?"
Thus began the arduous road of surgeries and chemotherapy at Children's Hospital in St. Paul.
"It's been an up-and-down process, but she's taking it well," Shannon said. "There's been a few scary moments being at the hospital, but she's been strong about it."
Added Jason: "The hospital has been very supportive. They've shown her videos and explained things to her level."
The effects of the treatments have taken their toll, however.
Both of them mentioned symptoms of lack of energy, fevers, gets easily tired, one day no appetite, the next day vice versa, grumpiness, easily irritated and weight gain/loss from steroids.
And no, those aren't the steroids that have gained the notoriety in the sporting industry, in which their purpose is to build muscle. The steroids Alyxis took turned her muscle into fat, so she could live off of it because the chemotherapy made her not hungry.
Currently, she just started a two-year maintenance program in which once a month she goes in for chemotherapy treatments and three times a month for a spinal tap.
They're far from out of the woods as, if she contracts any type of cold, fever, flu, virus, etc..., chances are she'd end up in the hospital again. Furthermore, for example, she can't be near any playground equipment, play in the sand and can't go swimming in lakes or ponds.
"We need to keep an eye at all times," Shannon said. "If she's exposed to the chicken pox, she needs to be hospitalized right away."
One thing's for sure, her parents said, is that Alyxis is determined to make it.
"She's so strong-willed and easy going with it," Jason said. "I don't think we would be able to handle it."
Added Shannon: "Her being strong has made us strong."