After a blood test, we got her diagnosis the next day
My daughter, Caitlin, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) when our family was living in Warsaw, Poland.
The nurse called from school to tell me that Caitlin, who was five years old at the time, was sick. She’d fallen asleep in class. She’d seemed unusually pale that morning when I dropped her off.
Over the previous two months, Caitlin had had a few rounds of antibiotics for common illnesses. But even though she recovered after each round, I knew she wasn’t 100 per cent.
After a blood test, we got her diagnosis the next day. Then we had to make some big decisions fast! The medical facilities at the Polish cancer centre were below modern, Western standards, and parents were not allowed to stay overnight with their child.
We knew we had to find better treatment but Caitlin’s blood counts were so low that she needed a blood transfusion before we could leave safely. We were put in a room with three other children. Although there was no room for me to sleep, I shared the bed with Caitlin that night.
I’m American but, because Caitlin’s father is Swedish, she was allowed to receive treatment in Sweden. The next day we were flown in an air ambulance to the Lund University’s Children’s Hospital in the South of Sweden.
I left Poland forever without saying goodbye to my three other children at home and without being able to pack a suitcase. The rest of the family moved to Sweden two weeks later.
My daughter has received outstanding care at the Hospital in Lund. Caitlin’s prognosis is 80 per cent which is a remarkable statistic considering that leukaemia was basically incurable in the 1960s.