Young acute lymphoblastic leukemia survivor benefits from childhood cancer programs

When Elijah “Eli” Delgado first started experiencing stomach pain, doctors told his mom, Leanne, it was most likely a gastrointestinal issue. She knew it had to be more than that because stomach problems runs in the family and Eli’s symptoms were different than those of his older brother. “As a parent, you have that gut feeling you know something’s wrong with your child,” Leanne says. Eli’s stomach pain continued for another year. Leanne still had no answers, even after visiting multiple doctors. One morning after Eli was screaming and crying about his pain, Leanne followed her instinct and took him to an emergency room. It was there that Leanne finally felt like somebody was listening to her. The doctor told her that Eli’s bloodwork suggested he might have leukemia and that they should go to a hospital for additional tests. “I was like what? Not my child. He’s so active!” Leanne recalls. “I kept thinking, ‘I don’t want to go through that. I don’t want to have to lose him!’ and ‘How do I tell my kids that their brother is sick?” An acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosis In February 2019, a week after Eli’s fifth birthday, doctors confirmed his diagnosis: acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He was transferred to MD Anderson to receive the treatment he needed, led by a team of childhood leukemia experts, including Branko Cuglievan, M.D., and Cesar Nunez, M.D. Eli immediately started chemotherapy, but because his white blood cell count was high, he developed tumor lysis syndrome from the cancer cells breaking down. He was placed on temporary dialysis while undergoing chemotherapy to clean the blood and...