Leukemia is a cancer of the blood cells .And cancer, broadly, is anything that leads to uncontrolled growth and cell division. So in the case of leukemia, it is the uncontrolled growth of, typically, white blood cells. What happens with all cancers is that those cells for some reason don’t have a signal to stop growing. So it kind of fills up the bone marrow space, it can go to other lymph tissue, which is your lymph nodes, your liver, and your spleen. And I really just describe the bone marrow cavity as becoming like a weedy garden. And that it’s filled with all weeds and the flowers of our normal white blood cells and red blood cells and platelets can’t grow because they’re kind of pushed out by all the leukemia cells.
Everybody’s first question is, “why?”
Q. Why my child?
Q. What did we do or did we not do?
It’s really not answerable for most kids.
So most kids who have leukemia, unfortunately, just have leukemia. So I think we know a lot of things that it’s not what parents did.
It’s not what they fed them. It’s not the exposures that they had their child in.
We’ve gone back and studied even before a child was conceived.
It’s not even a pre-conceptual exposure.
So there are a lot of things we know that don’t cause it.
I think it’s also really important for families to know that if your child is diagnosed with leukemia on a Monday, it’s probably been brewing in your blood for quite a while, sometimes on the order of months.
So parents often feel very guilty that, I should have brought them to the doctor sooner or that my pediatrician didn’t pay enough attention.
It isn’t that simple and it doesn’t mean that their chance of being cured is any less.
And it’s also important to recognize that for the vast majority of kids with cancer, there’s nothing that we can do to prevent it from having happened. All the things that you can control about your health contribute to good health but they won’t prevent you from getting a childhood cancer, for the vast majority of kids.