It is every parent's nightmare--your precious baby gets diagnosed with cancer. But for Esther and Dan Levy, of Atherton, CA, the diagnosis was even more tragic: their 14-month-old son Andrew not only had leukemia, but a rare form that only affects about 45 kids every year--and is much tougher to treat.
Still, doctors did what they could: They gave the boy chemotherapy to kill off the leukemia cells, and gave him a bone-marrow transplant (his 5-year-old brother, a perfect match, was the donor). His mom moved into the hospital room with him, staying there for three months while her husband stayed with their two other children. It was a grueling time--she was constantly trying to distract the little boy from his pain and nausea. And if she left him for a few minutes to take a shower, he screamed, she told Melanie Thernstrom, a New York Times reporter, who wrote Andrew's story for the newspaper.
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Still, it seemed as if the cancer was in remission--until doctors discovered not all the cancerous cells had been wiped out. They recommended more chemotherapy and another bone-marrow transplant. But the Levys didn't want to put the family through the procedure again, especially since there were no guarantees it would work. So they refused treatment.
Instead, they decided to spend what remaining time Andrew had in the best way they knew how. As Andrew got sicker and more lethargic, they prepared themselves for the inevitable. Then something miraculous happened. The little boy started to get stronger. He began to do more--laugh, play, even run. When Esther sent videos of the boy eating pizza or playing, doctors couldn't believe it. When they tested him, they found the cancer had disappeared.
So what happened? Doctors think the first bone-marrow transplant kickstarted the toddler's immune system to fight off the cancer once it returned. Had the Levys agreed to the second round of chemo, it would have killed off the cancer-fighting cells along with the cancer--and may not have worked.
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You can read the whole remarkable story at NYTimes.com.
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