From Diagnosis to Empowerment: A Mother's Journey in Conquering Childhood Leukemia
Being a parent naturally brings about concerns for the well-being of your child. However, Mary Anne's experience took parental anxiety to new heights when her three-year-old son, Ethan, was diagnosed with leukemia. Mary Anne's apprehension began when Ethan refused to walk and exhibited signs of discomfort under his armpits when carried. Upon consulting an orthopedic pediatrician, it was discovered that swollen lymph nodes around Ethan's armpits and feet were the result of leukemia.
"Everything unfolded rapidly from there. Ethan's blood tests revealed an alarmingly high white blood cell count and critically low hemoglobin levels. He was admitted to the hospital overnight and, by the following morning, transported via ambulance to the Subang Jaya Medical Centre. In less than 24 hours, my entire world had changed." Ethan began his treatment under the guidance of Dr. Chan Lee Lee, a consultant pediatric hematologist and oncologist.
A Cancer Care Center Empowering the Fight against Cancer
Today, Ethan, now a vibrant 10-year-old, resembles any other boy his age. He is talkative, energetic, and possesses a keen fascination with space and science. To quench his curiosity, he often immerses himself in documentaries on these subjects and finds joy in playing online video games during his leisure time.
Peripheral neuropathy, a major side effect of Ethan's cancer treatment, resulted in weakness in his legs and feet. Consequently, he adapted to moving around on tiptoes. However, over the past year, he has gradually begun to walk flat-footed and even run around the house on occasion.
"As a mother, it's only natural to fight tooth and nail for your child. When cancer enters the picture, you're thrust into a battle you have to confront. Surprisingly, Ethan remained cheerful throughout his treatment. In a peculiar way, he became the beacon of light that lifted our family's spirits.
"It made me shift my focus to the positive aspects, to seek out silver linings and not overly fret about things. If I were to offer a single piece of advice to families going through a similar experience, it would be to keep your child happy. When a child is happy, it elevates the atmosphere and makes it easier for the family to persevere."
Ethan's indomitable spirit played a pivotal role in guiding his family through this arduous period. In this photograph, he stands alongside Dr. Chan Lee Lee, a Consultant Pediatric Hematologist & Oncologist at Subang Jaya Medical Centre (SJMC).
The Significance of Raising Cancer Treatment Awareness in Malaysia
Mary Anne is a staunch advocate for childhood cancer awareness, striving to eliminate the stigma surrounding it in Malaysia. She frequently collaborates with NGOs dedicated to supporting low-income families struggling with cancer. Additionally, she has initiated her own "Wishing Star" program, inspired by the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the United States.
"At times, it can be incredibly isolating, even with the best of friends. It's not that they lack the desire to support you, but rather the lack of understanding about how cancer truly affects individuals. When it comes to childhood cancer, it is challenging to find parents willing to openly share their experiences.
"It falls upon adults to raise awareness. If we don't advocate for our children, who will? They cannot advocate for themselves. I genuinely hope that one day, there will be more initiatives to raise awareness about childhood cancer.
"September marks Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, symbolized by the color gold, but it doesn't receive the same level of exposure as breast cancer awareness, for instance. We need to promote greater awareness to assure these parents that they are not alone and that their children matter too."