Christmas in the Hospital: Gareth’s Story

 

Gareth Crabb is a thoughtful and caring six-year-old boy from Swansea, U.K. He is spending his second Christmas in the hospital this year, as he has anaplastic large cell lymphoma. His family is traveling from Swansea to Leeds to spend the holidays with him, and he is very excited to see his three siblings. He will most likely remain in the hospital past Christmas time and into the new year, but he is just excited to spend time with his family.

About Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma

Anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, which is a cancer that affects the lymph system within the immune system. ALCL is a form of lymphoma that involves the aggressive growth of T-cells. ALCL can be divided into two types: cutaneous and systemic. The former mainly affects the skin while the latter affects other organs. The cause of this cancer is unknown.

Symptoms of cutaneous ALCL are skin lesions that will break open and refuse to heal. This type usually appears in the skin, but it can also be present in the lymph nodes. Systemic ALCL includes symptoms like fevers, night sweats, and weight loss. This form is most commonly found in the soft tissue, spleen, liver, and skin.

Diagnosis of anaplastic large cell lymphoma comes with a biopsy. Using a microscope, doctors will identify cancer cells or tumor markers called CD30. Other tests may be run, including a PET scan, CT scan, MRI, or bone marrow biopsy. These tests are usually conducted to discover if the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

After a diagnosis has been obtained, chemotherapy or a stem-cell transplant are utilized as treatment. There have also been FDA approved treatments that target cancer cells, such as brentuximub vedotin.

Gareth’s Story

Gareth was diagnosed with ALCL in October of 2017 after a lump he received from falling on his head grew rather than healed. The first ten months of his treatment were spent at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff. It was there that he spent Christmas, and his family made the trip from Swansea to be with him. Gareth’s treatment was very hard on his body, and he even spent time in the ICU due to sepsis. But at the end of ten months he rang the treatment bell and returned home.

Unfortunately his time at home was short, as he experienced severe pain and was taken back to Cardiff after a few days. Once there, he required a five-hour surgery as his bowels were twisting together and getting stuck. After this surgery another biopsy was performed, and doctors found that the cancer had spread to his kidneys and lymph nodes.

A bone marrow transplant was the next method of treatment. This procedure required Gareth to move to Leeds, where he underwent intensive radiation and chemotherapy to prepare for the transplant. He received the bone marrow transplant on his sixth birthday, but the procedure led to complications. Graft-versus-host disease developed, in which the transplanted cells attack the body. Since the procedure his condition has improved.

Regardless of his treatment, Gareth is very excited to see his siblings and the rest of his family. To help the family with hospital expenses, donate to their JustGiving page.

Find the source article here.


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