Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Bad Couple of Days

Today, for the second day in a row, I held my baby down while a technician drew blood. Petunia has been having recurring fevers, and we need to rule out some sort of persistent low level bacterial infection or something worse, like cancer or an autoimmune disease. The doctor ordered the first round of tests yesterday, expecting them to come back indicating nothing, which would have led us to conclude that she has just been getting one virus after another. She's in day care and has an older sister, so this would not be unreasonable.

But the first round of tests came back indicating that something more might be going on. So she ordered more tests. I left work early again today, and drove Petunia to the doctor's office. I held her down to get a chest x-ray (that came back normal) and then to get blood drawn. Finally, I held her down while a nurse gave her a big shot of antibiotics. (The doctor recommended that we start treating on the assumption that the earlier test results were indicating infection, which is far more likely than cancer or an autoimmune diease. Also, the side effects of the antibiotic are upset tummy, which we generally can manage with a probiotic- we use Culturelle.)

We won't have the results of the second round of tests back for a few days, but Petunia seemed back to her usual happy self this evening, so I strongly suspect the eventual diagnosis will be some sort of bacterial infection, which the antibiotic shot cleared up. However, this little episode has got me thinking about cancer, and childhood cancer in particular. When I was a kid, it was practically considered a death sentence. Now, the cure rates of some childhood cancers are above 90%. As unpleasant and nerve-wracking as the last couple of days have been for me, I probably would have been far more worried 20 years ago.  There is a lot of work left to do- kids treated for cancer often have long term issues from the treatment. Far too many types of cancers still have few good treatment options. But from where I sit, working in the biotech industry, a lot of progress is being made (I'm too tired to make this a good, link-laden post, but Google Biospace.com or FierceBiotech to find some stories of recent advances and setbacks in the industry.) And from where I sat this week, as a mother of a little baby who probably doesn't have cancer, but whose first round of test results weren't 100% reassuring, I am very grateful for that progress. Now let's keep going until no one has to fear a cancer diagnosis.


  1. My sister had Lymphoma when she was 3 1/2 years old (she is turning 30 soon). I was 10 at the time. She was given only 30% chance of surviving, although I didn't know that at the time.

    Her treatment was very aggressive, and she has a lot of health problems as a result, but she made it, against the odds.

    As you can imagine, I fear my children being unwell more than anything else.

    I know you are a very logical person, but I also know that fear is a tricky beast, and logic does not always vanquish it. I will be thinking of you until you know for sure that nothing sinister is going on.

  2. I'm thinking of you and Petunia too. It's so odd, I have barely given a thought to childhood cancer, but just yesterday the 2 year old son of a colleague was diagnosed with leukemia. I was shocked, then surprised and reassured by the survival rates, but still hurting for them and what they will be going through the next 6 months. It hadn't even occurred to me that treatment would have long-term impacts (though I'm not surprised). It sounds like you have a great pediatrician and those antibiotics can kick in really quickly, so you're right that Petunia most likely has an infection.

  3. I'm glad she's feeling better and I hope the antibiotics are all that she needs to get all better.

  4. thinking of you and hoping for the best

  5. Good luck. That sounds rough. I remember reading a while back that while we've got a reasonable handle on adult cancers, and we're getting a lot better with childhood cancers, the ones that are still tricky are the teenage cancers - they're so rare that we just don't have the experience with them.

    I worked in a Children's Hospital for several years. I was only dealing with medical images, not actual patients, but it still affected me emotionally to a degree I found surprising.

  6. Hugs to you! Having to hold a babe (or toddler) down for blood draws and x-rays (or ultrasounds or the like) is rough! (I've done the toddler blood draw and baby ultrasound. Both sucked.)

    I hope it was just some little infection(s). Childhood cancer is just still so scary to me, as is cancer in general.

    As an aside, it turns out that one of my nieces has lyme disease! She is 4, and it is actually usually easier to diagnose in kids because they have more telling symptoms. So lots of antiboitics there, and new awareness on the issue for me and my family. Luckily, it appears to be easily treatable.

    Thinking of you and hoping for the best!

  7. Oh the blood drawing. Geh. Poor Petunia.

    Glad that the progress is looking positive now though, and hopefully the test results are ok and the antibiotics do the trick.

    But I know that even if there was a minute chance of a poor diagnosis I'd be a basketcase. I'm a worrier. You seem like such a level headed and rational person, which I really admire.

  8. Thank you all for your nice comments!

    Update- we heard to day that one of the tests we did yesterday ruled out leukemia, so that is good.

    Now we're doing more antibiotics, and we'll get an ultrasound to check that Petunia doesn't have an abscess or some other problem in her GI tract. And we have to do another round of blood tests in two weeks.

  9. We have friends whose daughter had leukemia when she was 2. She is 8 now, and apparently fine, but how they lived through those 6 months with her I'll never know (they had a newborn at the time too).

    I think the worst part of the testing, etc is just the unknown. I've had dark middle of the night moments with a sick kid where the symptoms are very scary. So far, thank goodness, everything was nothing--but my imagination can run away with me.

    Glad it's not leukemia--hope she's feeling much better soon.

  10. Good luck. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's an infection - a totally antibiotic-susceptible bacterial infection.

  11. Glad to hear that lukemia is ruled out! Sorry there will be more testing. :-(

  12. What a relief to have ruled out leukemia! Hugs & best wishes to you & yours!

  13. Oh how I feel for you!!! Good luck with everything.

  14. Glad everything is ok. Thats why I like to ride my bike for Leukemia sometimes, its nice to think that there will be more cures in the future. I'm a scientist, so I'm not expecting 'a cure' but it is good to see progress.

  15. Anonymous8:08 PM

    I am glad to hear it is not leukemia! I hope she improves quickly from the antibiotics and you have your playful baby back soon :)

  16. Oh god, I'm so sorry you and Petunia have to go through this. So glad to hear that at least leukemia was ruled out, and hoping that more good news comes back soon. (As Microbiologist said, crossing my fingers that it's a totally treatable, antibiotic-susceptible infection).


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