Noah Keck’s Story
As we prepared to move to Portland, Oregon immediately following Christmas/New Years I figured I would try to save us some last minute hassle and take Noah to see his pediatrician 2 weeks early for his 1 year checkup and get his shots in order. Little did I know just how important this appointment would be and how lucky we were to have scheduled it early.
Noah was not exhibiting any signs/symptoms other than his stomach being a bit distended and color ever so slightly off. His stomach did not alarm us because he was born with a pretty severe dairy/protein allergy that always caused him to have a lot of bowel gas if he accidentally got a hold of some, so this was fairly normal. His doctor (Dr. Marshall Benbow) routinely does an abdominal exam and we had him take a look since it hadn’t gone down in the past few days like it usually did. This is what sent up the first red flag. While feeling Noah’s stomach, his doctor could easily feel his spleen and it was quite obvious it was a few times bigger than it should have been. He checked his liver on the other side and his abdominal lymph nodes, but these were not as obvious. After this, he ran a CBC (complete blood count) to check his white/red/etc blood cell counts. Some of his numbers were a bit off, so we were scheduled to see a hematologist the following morning.
On the morning of December 23, 2011, we took Noah in to see Dr. Mahendra Patel who, after examination, ran another CBC. This test came back very similar to the one Noah’s pediatrician ran the day before, but the numbers had gotten slightly worse though not dangerously so. Nothing was obvious under the microscope. We were then sent to the hospital radiology lab for an ultrasound and x-rays to check on the organs in Noah’s abdomen. Later that night we got a call from Dr. Patel stating that Noah’s spleen was several times the size it should be and that his liver and lymph nodes were both enlarged as well. Again, very concerning but no immediate danger. He suggested we keep Noah at home over Christmas weekend, which we were glad to hear, but keep him mostly isolated and watch for a couple of symptoms (extreme fatigue, easy bruising, bleeding, etc).
The weekend went fairly smooth and Noah seemed as happy as could be. He never showed any clear symptoms aside from being a little more fatigued and slightly pale. We were hopeful since his blood had looked ‘clean’ and that he wasn’t suffering from any major symptoms that would turn out to be something minor, an infection or something along those lines.
Tuesday, December 27th, we took Noah back to see Dr. Patel and we did a fresh CBC. This is where the picture became really clear really fast. This blood test showed Noah’s white blood cell count spiked 3X since before the weekend, way out of the normal range, and his other stats decreased further (red blood cells, hemoglobin, platelets, etc), with some being very low. Under the microscope it was clearly obvious we were dealing with some type of leukemia.
Noah was immediately admitted to the hospital where he would be prepped for surgery the following morning (the 28th) and needed to get both blood and platelets since his counts were so low. A few hours after being admitted, the lab had unfortunately confirmed the diagnosis as pre-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Noah is considered high-risk due to his young age (<1 year at diagnosis) as this usually affects children in the 1-10 range. Since then, there were heavy doses of chemo and blood transfusions/platelets for a year. And since 2012, Noah has been on the same regimen consisting of methotrexate, vincristine, 6mp, steroids and IVIG, with spinal taps every 3 months; this should be completed sometime Fall 2015. He has had 3 Portacath surgeries as well. Noah is doing great with all his treatments. He is 4 years old now, a happy boy full of life; you wouldn't be able tell he has Leukemia at all. Special thanks to Dr. Benbow for taking the extra time and for his attention to detail which allowed him to catch the fact that something was going on. Nothing was clearly obvious and we easily could have overlooked Noah’s stomach due to it having always been that way — that was the scary part. Many doctors without a doubt would have simply scheduled a follow-up to something like this, prescribed some meds and waited to see what would happen. In this case, it could/would have cost Noah his life potentially as ALL can kill in as little as a few weeks if left untreated. Also, Dr.Patel, his Hematologist, has done a phenomenal job guiding us through each milestone, has been very helpful with any questions, and has been spot on whenever there was any other health concerns. Noah Loves Dr. Patel and his nurses; everyone has been great. We thank all of our friends and family for supporting us in this Great Fight Against Cancer. Your prayers, as well as ours, are being answered one step at a time.