Every parent's nightmare. CANCER. No parent should have to go through it. Children with Down Syndrome are at a higher risk for certain types of cancer. Can you say a prayer for this family and families like them struggling from childhood cancers?
Gavin Kennedy-Farrell is a five year old little boy who lives in Kitchener, Ontario with his mom and his two older sisters, Katlynn 11 and Courtney 15. Gavin’s mom, Vanessa Farrell, is originally from St. Alban’s but moved away years ago like many others.
Vanessa is a single mom of three and her youngest child Gavin wasdiagnosed with Down Syndrome when she was four months pregnant and a congenital heart defect that would require surgery when he was seven months old.
A routine ultrasound detected an abnormality when she was expecting and from there she was sent to McMaster for a 3d ultrasound that confirmed the Down Syndrome.
Hospital politics lean heavily on the side of abortion as she was given all the 'down' side of Down Syndrome. However, having spent so much of her life working with people with special needs, she could never have aborted a child based on any outcome.
Gavin was born under close watch at Hamilton hospital and, as predicted during pregnancy, his heart surgery was preformed when he was seven months old. He was tube fed at home until he was ten months old and today is still a little delayed in terms of mobility, as he is still not walking independently.
In September 2011, Gavin was also diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) is cancer that starts inside bone marrow and in the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells. The cancer grows from cells that would normally turn into white blood cells.Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is an aggressive, rare type of blood cancer manifested by infections, bleeding and a high rate of mortality.
It requires immediate treatment with intensive chemotherapy and sometimes also with bone marrow transplantation. Infections are a major cause of mortality in AML patients since intensive chemotherapy lowers the white blood cell (WBC) count and disrupts the immune system.
Colony‐stimulating factors (CSFs) are agents administered in order to increase the WBC count, in the hope that this will decrease the rate of infections.
His mom stated that on Thursday, September 15th Gavin came home from daycare with a peculiar looking rash on his chest, legs and back.
He was in great spirits and didn't appear to be bothered by the pin-like spots all over his body.
“Forever the google queen, I narrowed it down to what I thought was petechiae. It is one of those rashes related to the blood and is often an underling symptom to much bigger issues, ie leukemia. Since the odds are stacked against children with DS for developing leukemia, I knew we needed blood work,” stated Ms. Farrell.
“Off to emergency we went and the triage nurse confirmed my suspicions of petechiae and ordered blood work. Then the ride started.Gavin's platelets were low and they suspected an illness called ITP. Bottom line is that it is common and treatable. However, upon reviewing the smears again they became concerned. His white blood cells were too abnormal to ignore and they opted for a bone marrow biopsy. This confirmed AML (acute myeloid leukemia).”
Gavin is presently in round 2 of 4 aggressive chemotherapy at McMaster Paediatric Hospital in Hamilton and has had some rough days but always seems to find a smile for his mom.The most obvious difference though between these two rounds is how well Gavin is feeling.
“Aside from feeling a bit stomach sick during his tube feeds, which can be controlled by speed and volume, he is doing great. He’s happy, energetic, and flirting with all the girls, says his mom, as only Gavin can do, when he wants to that is.”
“This will no doubt be a tough road for our family and one which will not likely be finished for many months. However, I have to take each good day as it comes and realize that even though things are difficult right now, there is always someone who may be in a worse situation than me.
“ So, I thank God for what I have and am grateful. I am so fortunate to have such an amazing team of doctors who care for Gavin every day, two beautiful girls who have been so grown up through all of this, and family, friends and a community who have shown me that we are not fighting this battle alone,” said Ms. Farrell.
The McMaster Paediatric Hospital is his primary care facility in Ontario and as his mom would state is a “Home away from Home”.