Thursday, January 31, 2013

FMB: Medical Care

There is a small child I know here, about the same age as Tatoe.  This small child was born with a large number of medical problems, including a genetic condition.  Almost a quarter of this child's life has been in the hospital, where hundreds of thousands of dollars of care have been supplied. 

Now, it transpires, the child has leukemia.  Depending on how many mutations are present, and what kind, the five-year survival rate is somewhere between, oh, 40% and maybe 80%.  The mother is insisting 'everything will be fine!' (It's probably on the higher end, but still.)

It reminds me of when I was in grad school, and a young mother, a friend of everyone I knew, was diagnosed with breast cancer, which rapidly progressed to Stage IV.  This is not atypical in young people with cancer, as you probably know, due to certain fundamental facts about cells.  Everyone was talking about 'beating' it and her being 'cured' and I looked up the median survival: 15 months.  Advanced, aggressive cancer is also almost always fatal, unless something else kills you first. (She lived for a few years.)  She died.  It was sad.   The sadness and the facts have nothing to do with each other.

I hope this small child is okay, but wishing won't make it so. 


  1. Anonymous7:40 PM

    Oh. My. God.

    That is all.

    1. There was a lot of SUCK going around in grad school.

      (I really do hope this kid is okay.)

  2. To put a more positive spin on things, the five year survival rates of some paediatric leukemias is now up around 90%

  3. Long time reader, first time commenter..Your post really resonated with me. I have a toddler with a chronic condition, perhaps IBD, perhaps indicative of an underlying immune system glitch. Here are some of the diagnoses I have been presented with: chronic granulomatous disease, CF, TB, IL-2 receptor defect. You can see some of these do not have the best prognosis.

    You know how when someone asks how you are, the polite response is "fine" without giving fifty million details? I'm sure I have often sounded like the mother in your post. In part, this is for the benefit of my child: at just turned 3 she is savvy enough to pick up on the undercurrents in my response. I have also noted that people can change their behaviour around her when I they think I am worried: more random hugs from mother friends, more sighing from a grandfather when he watches her play. I wonder if she notices this and what she makes of it.

    Just wanted to present alternative explanation for the "everything will be alright" attitude to super ditzy-ness or super stoicism.

    1. It's possible. Since I had five minutes, I didn't mention that I know her very well, she's also super-extra-Cath.olic and is very into 'we'll pray and it will be fine' and ... well, most of the world is more optimistic than me. :) (We're all working on taking care of her older child while everyone else is at the hospital for 9 months; this is super-disruptive for a 3-year-old as you can well imagine. Poor kid.) I don't know enough about the genetic profile of this particular leukemia to guess what the kid's odds are - and neither does this mother, believe you me. Still, optimism on her part is probably not going to hurt much. Personally, though, I prefer data.

    2. Given the choices here, data seems like a shitty option, too.

      Can everyone just quit it with the babies dying, already? There have been far, far too many recently.


  4. I forgot to add, I always look forward to your updates, thanks for continuing to write!


Comments are moderated, so it may take a day or two to show up. Anonymous comments will be deleted.