On September 2, 2015 our life drastically changed. Our son Brayden was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at the age of 11.
Leading up to his diagnosis, Brayden had been having headaches for several days. Although the headaches didn’t last all day, they were regular enough for us to notice this wasn’t his normal.
The night before, Brayden had spent the night at his grandparent’s house. He was having a good time, but mentioned his headaches were bothering him. We took note and tried to think of reasons why he might be experiencing these headaches. Our first thought was, maybe it was his nerves. Brayden was days away from starting his first year of middle school. We thought this was an odd trigger, because Brayden had always been outgoing, and usually adjusted well to new situations.
The next morning, Brayden mentioned that he did not feel well. He described his symptoms as what he had felt like when he had strep throat, but oddly his throat did not hurt. As Brayden’s mom, I quickly recalled hearing about cases of strep in other places of your body. I immediately called his doctor and they quickly got him in. From the original symptoms Brayden described, I thought he would be heading home and starting a round of antibiotics.
That same day, we were able to see our normal family doctor. She had been following Brayden his entire life and we had a strong relationship with her. During Brayden’s check-up, she asked Brayden a few questions and examined his stomach. From what she saw, his doctor immediately knew something wasn’t right. The examination revealed he had a condition called petechiae. Petchiae are pinpoint red dots that are caused by bleeding under the skin. On Brayden’s stomach petchiae was visible and this was a condition we had never heard of.
After the examination, Brayden was sent down to get some labs drawn. As we were waiting, sitting in the waiting room felt strange. We had no idea what was going on with Brayden and I wondered if he was contagious. Soon it was time to review the labs. Our doctor had asked to have a private conversation without the kids. I immediately thought this was not normal. As I sat there listening to Brayden’s doctor, I heard her say Brayden’s white and red blood cells were abnormal. From what she gained from the labs and the petechiae, Brayden’s doctor said “I think Brayden has leukemia.
Hearing those words, “your son has leukemia” was the worst day of our lives. I quickly called Brayden’s dad Jim, and he immediately headed to the clinic. While we gathered ourselves, our doctor was already making arrangements for the next stages. We heard that Brayden would be heading to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and checking in as a patient. Not long after, Brayden’s dad arrived and we all explained our new normal to Brayden and his sister Riley. This was such an emotional time for our family and we were very afraid of the unknown.
Brayden’s diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia was a shock. Brayden went through three and a half years of treatment and finished his last chemo medication on January 5, 2019. During his treatment, Brayden showed everyone how strong he truly was. Of course not all days were the same and some days were just hard. Although this journey had challenges, Brayden also had the opportunity to experience some really amazing things. Brayden is now a healthy CANCER free 16 year old. He is finishing his sophomore year of high school and is a normal teenage boy.
After this experience, we are inspired by the amazing organizations who help cancer families and are grateful for the help our family received. As we continue forward in life, we look forward to helping other cancer families and supporting them in anyway we can.