The Zehowski Family
Hi. I am Cortney. Scott and I, on behalf of our family, are setting up this SpareKey to assist us in securing care for our other 3 girls when we have to be in the hospital with Brooklyn, Brooklyn’s medications and any further unforeseen medical expenses, maintaining household expenses, and the expenses we are incurring while having to live for a week or more at a time, in Minneapolis, over the next several months while Brooklyn is going through her treatment.
Tuesday, August 3 seemed like a normal weeknight. Scott was working, while the girls and I were getting ready to watch a movie. Brooklyn came out of the bathroom crying saying her tummy hurt down by her groin. I checked the spot she was referring to and there was a huge lump. We already had a doctor appointment scheduled for her for the following day, so I figured we would address our concerns then.
At Brooklyn’s doctor appointment that morning we learned that she would be sent for an emergency surgery to repair the hernia. Shockingly, there was no hernia to repair. Instead, they had removed a swollen lymph node. The doctor didn’t seem to be too concerned saying it was routine to send it to pathology. He tried to reassure us by saying that the chances of it coming back and showing anything bad was very slim. Lab results normally take 5 – 7 days. So, now we wait…
Over the next few days, Brooklyn started getting fevers as high as 104.3* F. She was super tired, nauseous, and even started having diarrhea. We took her to the ER, and after some IV fluids, she seemed to come back to life. She was laughing and talking. We left feeling confident that she was finally on the mend. But a few hours after we were home, her symptoms returned.
Wednesday, August 11 at about 4:30 pm, I received a call from Dr. Lee, the surgeon who had removed Brooklyn’s swollen lymph node informing us that the lab had found lymphoma cells in her lymph node. The reason it took so long to get results was because they had to send it to the Mayo Clinic for confirmation. It was confirmed that the pathology showed ALK-Positive Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. The Doctor said we would be receiving a call from a pediatric oncologist within the next day or so. The next day, we were instructed to take Brooklyn to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis to meet with a team of Pediatric Oncologists. At that time, it was decided that she would be admitted to help get ahead of her symptoms and do further testing.
First thing the next morning, Brooklyn was taken for her PET scan. Then, later that morning, she was taken for surgery to do 4 different things:
1. They implanted her port into her chest. (This is a type of central line or central venous catheter; it is like an IV but has a much longer line that feeds through a larger vein that leads directly into the heart.)
2.They take a sample of her bone marrow from each hip to test it for lymphoma.
3. They did a lumbar puncture to test her spinal fluid for lymphoma.
4. They gave her a dose of Intrathecal Triple Therapy (ITT - a combination of Methotrexate, Hydrocortisone, and Cytarabine) that gets injected straight into her spinal fluid to kill any lymphoma that could possibly be there. This is more of a preventative measure because it is more effective in treating any cancer found within the spinal fluid based on fact that medicine given through her bloodstream cannot fully penetrate beyond the blood brain barrier
The next morning the doctor came in with BrooklynKae’s official diagnosis:
Stage 4 ALK-positive Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma
Treatment Plan is going to consist of 6 cycles of extremely intense chemotherapy.
Each cycle will be 3 weeks long. The first week of every cycle will be spent in the hospital while she is receiving chemotherapy. The following two weeks will hopefully be mostly spent at home recovering as long as she runs no fever and shows no major symptoms of sickness.
After her second cycle of chemotherapy, she will have her bone marrow retested to see if it is responding to the current course of treatment. If it is, then nothing will change. But if it is not, then the oncology team may need to look at other options… Such as a possible bone marrow transplant.
Knowing that we have 3 more girls at home and having to be almost two hours away when Brooklyn is in the hospital, finding our balance has been tough. So many thanks go out to our family and friends for helping to care for the other girls and all the love, prayers and support directed our way during this very difficult time for our family.