Imagine that you’re a parent of five beautiful daughters. One night, you put them all to bed and all seemed well: playful, happy, excitable. Then, the next morning, you wake up to find something wrong with one of your children. Your normally energetic daughter is lethargic and showing some strange symptoms: a 15-minute long nosebleed, a floppy body. Well, 26-year-old Joanna Williams faced that exact situation when her 3-year-old daughter, Sharelle, suddenly became completely unresponsive. According to Wales Online, the family rushed Sharelle to the doctor where they got a startling diagnosis: leukemia.
Leukemia is a cancer that forms in bone marrow or tissue within the lymphatic system. The cause is unknown. However, some doctors believe that blood cell DNA mutates, causing severe cancerous cell growth.
There are multiple types of leukemia. However, they tend to share common symptoms such as fatigue, fever and chills, continued nosebleeds, swollen lymph nodes, organ enlargement, bone pain, frequent infections, and unintended weight loss. Learn more about leukemia.
On the morning Sharelle was rushed to the hospital, Joanna knew something was wrong right away. She states:
“[Sharelle] was very pale and her lips were blue and soon after, she developed a pretty drastic nose bleed [that] wouldn’t stop when I pinched her nose. She also had…a pin-prick rash…[and was] floppy and unresponsive.”
At first, Joanna and Frank (Sharelle’s father) thought the girl might have meningitis. Sharelle was rushed to the hospital, where initial tests showed no infections.
Then doctors tested for neutropenia, a blood condition caused by low white blood cells called neutrophils. Normally, neutrophils play a role in immune response. So, someone with neutropenia may present with fatigue, fever, infection, or anemia. As expected, Sharelle’s white blood cell counts were low. But not for the reason Joanna thought…
Instead, the doctor stated that Sharelle most likely had leukemia. Further testing confirmed this diagnosis: acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The toddler began chemotherapy less than 24 hours later.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic only makes Sharelle’s diagnosis and treatment more difficult. The girl is unable to engage with her sisters, unable to have her family at the hospital, and must take six different types of medication.
However, the family is amazed and grateful for the support received from the community. Within their family, 9-year-old Ellina stated she would shave her hair to make her sister happier. In addition, members of their community set up a GoFundMe to assist with medical expenses.