UPDATE: Albie’s cancer is responding to treatment. He is such a fighter!

Cancer – it’s a word we have all come to fear and dread over the years. Being diagnosed with any type of cancer as an adult is life changing but we seem to get on with what life throws at us whether we have conventional treatment or alternative. But when a child is diagnosed, especially your own child it is so earth shattering and heart wrenching you wish you could just lock yourself away and never come out again. And this is why I am writing this special blog for a very good friend of mine. No mother should have to deal with this and no child should have to go through this. And I hope that this post reaches far and wide so that every parent faced with this knows that they are not alone there are people you can talk to.

The special little man I am talking about today is my good friends Nephew. His name is Albie and he was diagnosed with All type Leukemia when he was just two years old. The brilliant team of doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and Queens Hospital in Romford, Essex have worked effortlessly with Albie and his family (especially his mum, Rachael) to ensure that he is well looked after and receiving the best treatment they can offer.  But like most children, he seems to be taking it in his stride and showing amazing strength and I am so in awe of how he is dealing with this at such a young age, but they say children are resilient and boy is he a tough little cookie.

As a fellow warrior my heart is with Albie and I am 100% positive he will do all he can to totally kick some butt. He may be small but he albiehas one hell of a personality and he has touched every bodies hearts including mine and I hope that he continues to touch peoples lives with his beautiful smile and aura.
An amazing little boy with a great family who I am pleased to say I know. The love he has around him from his family will be a huge part of his healing process alongside the great help he is receiving from the hospital’s.

Albie’s mum, Rachel has set up a justgiving page in order to donate to the hospital’s that he has been treated at, as well as the Royal Bank of Canada who have set up an amazing “fun run”  in June for the children who are treated at Great Ormond Street Hopital with a Charity night set up by Albie’s family which will take place in August . Details are below for the justgiving donation page.

This is an amazing little boy – lets all send our positive energy to him on his road to recovery.


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Donations can be sent to the following link https://www.justgiving.com/albie-army/

As a parent, the fact that your child has cancer is one of the worst situations you can be faced with. You may have many different emotions, such as fear, guilt, sadness, anger and uncertainty. These are all normal reactions and are part of the process that many parents go through at such a difficult time.

What is childhood leukemia?

Cancer starts when cells start to grow out of control. Cells in nearly any part of the body can become cancer.

Leukemia is a cancer that starts in early blood-forming cells found in the bone marrow, the soft inner part of certain bones. Most often, leukemia is a cancer of the white blood cells, but some leukemias start in other blood cell types.

Any of the blood-forming cells from the bone marrow can turn into a leukemia cell. Once this change takes place, the leukemia cells no longer mature in a normal way. Leukemia cells might reproduce quickly, and not die when they should. These cells build up in the bone marrow, crowding out normal cells. In most cases, the leukemia cells spill into the bloodstream fairly quickly. From there they can go to other parts of the body such as the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord), testicles, or other organs, where they can keep other cells in the body from doing their jobs.

Some other childhood cancers, such as neuroblastoma or Wilms tumor, start in other organs and can spread to bone marrow, but these cancers are not leukemia.

Normal bone marrow, blood, and lymphoid tissue

To understand the different types of leukemia, it helps to know about the blood and lymph systems.

Bone marrow

Bone marrow is the soft inner part of bones. New blood cells (red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets) are made there. In infants, active bone marrow is found in almost all bones of the body, but by the teenage years it is found mainly in the flat bones (skull, shoulder blades, ribs, and hip bones) and vertebrae (the bones that make up the spine).

Bone marrow is made up of a small number of blood stem cells, more mature blood-forming cells, fat cells, and supporting tissues that help cells grow. Blood stem cells go through a series of changes to make new blood cells. During this process, the cells develop into 1 of the 3 main types of blood cell components.

Types of blood cells

Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to all other tissues in the body, and take carbon dioxide back to the lungs to be removed. Having too few red blood cells in the body (anemia) can make you feel tired, weak, and short of breath because your body tissues are not getting enough oxygen.

Platelets are actually cell fragments made by a type of bone marrow cell called the megakaryocyte. Platelets are important in stopping bleeding by plugging up holes in blood vessels. Having too few platelets (thrombocytopenia) may cause you to bleed or bruise easily.

White blood cells help the body fight infections. Having too few white blood cells weakens your immune system and can make you more likely to get an infection.

Types of white blood cells

Lymphocytes are mature, infection-fighting cells that develop from lymphoblasts, a type of blood stem cell in the bone marrow. Lymphocytes are the main cells that make up lymphoid tissue, a major part of the immune system. Lymphoid tissue is found in the lymph nodes, thymus (a small organ behind the breast bone), spleen, tonsils and adenoids, and bone marrow. It is also scattered through the digestive system and respiratory system. There are 2 main types of lymphocytes:

  • B lymphocytes (B cells) help protect the body against germs such as bacteria and viruses. They make proteins called antibodies that attach to the germ, marking it for destruction by other parts of the immune system.
  • T lymphocytes (T cells) also help protect the body against germs. Some types of T cells destroy germs directly, while others play a role in either boosting or slowing the activity of other immune system cells.

Acute lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL), the most common type of childhood leukemia, develops from early forms of lymphocytes. It can start in either early B cells or T cells at different stages of maturity. Although both B cells and T cells can develop into leukemia, B-cell leukemias are much more common than T-cell leukemias. For more information, see the section “How is childhood leukemia classified?”

Granulocytes are mature, infection-fighting cells that develop from myeloblasts, a type of blood-forming cell in the bone marrow. Granulocytes have granules that show up as spots under the microscope. These granules contain enzymes and other substances that can destroy germs, such as bacteria. The 3 types of granulocytes – neutrophils, basophils, and eosinophils – are distinguished under the microscope by the size and color of their granules.

Monocytes develop from blood-forming monoblasts in the bone marrow and are related to granulocytes. After circulating in the bloodstream for about a day, monocytes enter body tissues to become macrophages, which can destroy some germs by surrounding and digesting them. Macrophages also help lymphocytes recognize germs and start making antibodies to fight them.

Types of leukemia in children

Leukemia is often described as being either acute (fast growing) or chronic (slow growing). Almost all childhood leukemia is acute.

Acute leukemias

The main types of acute leukemia are:

  • Acute lymphocytic (lymphoblastic) leukemia (ALL): About 3 out of 4 childhood leukemias are ALL. This leukemia starts from early forms of lymphocytes in the bone marrow. See below for how this is treated
  • Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML): This type of leukemia, also called acute myeloidleukemia, acute myelocytic leukemia, or acute non-lymphocytic leukemia, accounts for most of the remaining cases. AML starts from the myeloid cells that form white blood cells (other than lymphocytes), red blood cells, or platelets.
  • Hybrid or mixed lineage leukemia: In these rare leukemias, the cells have features of both ALL and AML. In children, they are generally treated like ALL and usually respond to treatment like ALL.

Both ALL and AML can be further divided into different subtypes. For more on these subtypes, see the section “How is childhood leukemia classified?”

Chronic leukemias

Chronic leukemias are much more common in adults than in children. They tend to grow more slowly than acute leukemias, but they are also harder to cure. Chronic leukemias can be divided into 2 types.

  • Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML): This leukemia rarely occurs in children. Treatment is similar to that used for adults (see “Treatment of children with chronic myelogenous leukemia”). For more detailed information on CML, see Leukemia–Chronic Myeloid.
  • Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL): This leukemia is extremely rare in children. For more information on CLL, see Leukemia–Chronic Lymphocytic.

Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML)

This rare type of leukemia is neither chronic nor acute. It begins from myeloid cells, but it usually doesn’t grow as fast as AML or as slow as CML. It occurs most often in young children (under age 4). Symptoms can include pale skin, fever, cough, easy bruising or bleeding, trouble breathing (from too many white blood cells in the lungs), and an enlarged spleen and lymph nodes.

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL)

Signs and symptoms of ALL

As the leukaemia cells multiply in the bone marrow, the production of normal blood cells is reduced. Children may therefore become tired and lethargic because of anaemia, which is caused by a lack of red blood cells. Children may develop bruises, and bleeding may take longer to stop because of the low number of platelets present in their blood (which help blood to clot). Sometimes, children suffer from infections because of low numbers of normal white blood cells.

A child is likely to feel generally unwell and may complain of aches and pains in the limbs or may have swollen lymph glands.

At first, the symptoms are just like those of a viral infection, but when they continue for more than a week or two, the diagnosis usually becomes clear.

How ALL is diagnosed

A blood test usually shows low numbers of normal white blood cells and the presence of the abnormal leukaemia cells. A sample of bone marrow is usually needed to confirm the diagnosis. A sample is also sent to the genetics department to look for any abnormal chromosomes, and for a test called MRD (minimal residual disease) analysis.

A test called a lumbar puncture is done to see if the spinal fluid contains any leukaemia cells. A chest x-ray is also done, which will show if there are any enlarged glands in the chest. Other tests may be necessary, depending on your child’s symptoms.

These tests will help to identify the precise type of leukaemia and help doctors decide on the best treatment.

Treatment for ALL

The aim of treatment for ALL is to destroy the leukaemia cells and enable the bone marrow to work normally again. Chemotherapy is the main treatment for ALL. Usually, a combination of chemotherapy drugs and steroids is given according to a treatment plan (often called a protocol or regimen).

The treatment is given in several phases, or ‘blocks’, which are explained below.

Induction

This phase involves intensive treatment, aimed at destroying as many leukaemia cells as possible. The induction phase lasts 4-6 weeks. A bone marrow test is taken at the end of induction treatment to confirm whether or not the child still has leukaemia. The sample that is taken is looked at under a microscope and when there is no evidence of leukaemia, the child’s condition is referred to as being in ‘remission’.

Consolidation and central nervous system (CNS) treatment

The next phase of treatment is aimed at maintaining the remission and preventing the spread of leukaemia cells into the brain and spinal cord (the central nervous system, or CNS). CNS treatment involves injecting a drug, usually methotrexate, directly into the spinal fluid (intrathecally) during a lumbar puncture. Occasionally, radiotherapy to the brain is also necessary.

After this consolidation treatment there is a recovery period which is called interim maintenance. This is when more drugs will be given to try to keep the leukaemia in remission.

Further doses of chemotherapy treatment, called delayed intensification, are given to kill off any remaining leukaemia cells. Between two and four blocks of treatment may be needed, depending on your child’s particular treatment plan.

Maintenance treatment

This phase of treatment lasts for up to two years from diagnosis for girls and up to three years for boys. It involves the child taking daily and weekly tablets, and having monthly injections of chemotherapy.

Children will be able to take part in their normal daily activities as soon as they feel able to. Most children return to school before beginning maintenance treatment.

Bone marrow transplantation

Bone marrow treatment is only used for children with ALL that’s likely to come back following standard chemotherapy. It can also be used for children whose leukaemia has come back (recurred) following standard treatment.

Testicular radiotherapy

In some situations it may be necessary for boys to have radiotherapy to their testicles. This is because leukaemia cells can survive in the testicles despite chemotherapy.

Central nervous system (CNS) radiotherapy

Children who have leukaemia cells in their CNS when they’re first diagnosed with ALL may need to have radiotherapy to their brain (cranial radiotherapy). Your child’s specialist will discuss with you which treatment and how much of it your child needs, and will answer any questions you have. If your child is younger than 2 years old they will not be given this treatment.

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