Beth

20 December 2013
Beth smiling in the sunshine
In 2011, Beth was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia when she was four years old. She will need to continue treatment until September 2013. Her mum Karen tells us their story.

“In June 2011, we were getting ready to take Beth to nursery and she started to complain that her hip was hurting. She found it difficult to walk down the stairs, and initially, I thought nothing of it.  She went to nursery as normal and I headed to work.

A mother's instinct

Later that day, the nursery called to say that Beth was still in pain and that it was getting worse. They suggested we take her to see the GP at the walk-in centre, but we took her straight to the local hospital. Beth was kept in the Sunderland Royal Hospital overnight for observation as her temperature was high.

It’s funny, even though the doctors didn’t say anything, there was something in my head telling me it was leukaemia. She’d been paler than usual (she’s quite fair skinned anyway) and had some leg pain before – I’d had it in my mind for a few months before that something was not quite right. Mother’s instinct I suppose?
 
The next day, we were sent home as her temperature had gone down and her blood count was normal. Her white blood count was 10 - the upper end of normal. We thought everything was OK, but later that day, we had a phone call from the hospital, asking to see us in person.

Diagnosis and treatment

Beth in October 2012When we got to the hospital, we were told that there were blast cells on Beth’s blood smear.  The doctors gave me a huge list of things they knew it wasn’t, but I just wanted to hear what it was! 

I didn’t know what blast cells were – I’d heard of neuroblastoma before and I thought they were going to tell me my daughter had it. So when they told me they thought it was acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, I almost felt relieved.
 
Beth needed a bone marrow test to confirm the diagnosis and was immediately referred to the Royal Victoria Infirmary down the road for treatment. A couple of days later, she had a portacath fitted and the chemotherapy started.

Beth is coping really well 

Beth sledging in the snowBeth is a really bright girl, and whilst she doesn’t know how serious leukaemia is, she knows she’s very poorly. When we first got to hospital, we saw some children who had lost their hair, and we explained that she would lose her hair too. This was quite upsetting for Beth as she’s quite a girlie girl.
 
She’s needed two intensive blocks of chemotherapy so far and has lost her hair twice, but has been coping really well.  She quite likes going to the hospital - she’s made some friends, likes the doctors and enjoys the attention! Plus there’s a magician who visits the wards and a cinema at the hospital.
 
Beth’s walking was affected for a bit after a high dose of steroids. She suffered from hyper-mobility before she was diagnosed with leukaemia which didn’t help matters.

We encouraged her to walk to get her mobility back and she plays and swims just like her friends. She is noticeably less agile but it doesn’t stop her.
 
Beth finishes treatment on 20th September 2013. Though I am simultaneously looking forward to and dreading this time, for Beth's sake we plan to embrace a return to normality and hope that the rest of her childhood is carefree."

Read more: Side effects of treatment | Commonly used terms in treatment

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