My friend, Matt, was diagnosed with cancer in May 2002. I was shocked when Matt’s girlfriend, Amber, told me that he had cancer, because Matt was only twenty-three years old when diagnosed. The type of cancer Matt has is called Leukemia, which is cancer of the white blood cells. This cancer starts in the bone marrow but can then spread to the blood, lymph nodes, the spleen, liver, central nervous system and other organs. Cancer
affects many people each year including my grandmother who had cancer and now one of my close friends.
The type of Leukemia Matt has is Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), which causes his body many problems. Matt’s first symptoms of Leukemia started with him filling weak and fatigued, looking pale faced, and vomiting on occasion. Matt’s mother is a nurse at the Aiken Hospital, ambling her to know that something was seriously wrong with Matt. Matt’s mom took him to the Aiken Hospital where he was later diagnosed with Leukemia. Matt’s family and friends were shocked to find out he had this disease because of his young age
. This is a disease that occurs most commonly in young children, but also affects adults. The doctors have no idea how Matt became infected with cancer. Some risk factors for some cases of cancer are smoking, exposure to massive amounts of radiation, and drugs used for the treatment of other cancers. Leukemia cells in the Acute Leukemia grow rapidly and require therapy right away (Veritas Medicine). This type of disease is hard on the body because it affects the blood cells
. Bone Marrow is the soft, spongy, inner part of bones (American Cancer Society). All of the different types of blood cells are made in the bone marrow. Bone marrow is made up of blood-forming cells, fat cells, and tissues that aid the growth of blood cells (American Cancer Society). The two types of blood cells are white and red blood cells. White blood cells (leukocytes) help defend the body against germs—viruses and bacteria (American Cancer Society). Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to all other tissues of the body(American Cancer Society). They also carry away carbon dioxide. Matt began to have a shortage of red blood cells, which caused his weakness.
Since Matt had this type of disease that grows rapidly his mom had to take him to a hospital in Charleston, South Carolina immediately. Matt was told that he would only be in Charleston for a month. The doctors acted like the cancer he had was not serious. After about two weeks, the doctors informed Matt that he would be unable to work for up to a year. Matt has now been in the hospital for seven weeks. The doctors at the hospital have done many painful tests. They have taken bone marrow from him, which helps the doctors see all the different types of blood cells that are being made in the bone marrow. He has had a hard time keeping himself from becoming sick because he is lacking white blood cells. When Matt was diagnosed with leukemia, the doctors started him on chemotherapy treatments. Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals that inhibit the growth and reproduction of cancerous cells. This drug has many side affects. Chemotherapy has caused Matt to lose his hair and decreased his blood cell counts. This means that he cannot fight off germs that cause people to become sick. At first, Matt was always tired from the chemo treatment. Matt was also unable to rest because the doctors were always checking up on him. Amber, Matt’s girlfriend, told me that the doctor would only allow Matt a cup of ice every two hours. She also told me that he was allowed a Popsicle one day for cooperating with the nurses and being patient. When he ate the Popsicle he thought it was the best thing he ever had. He is now in a mild coma because he chose to use chemotherapy. The doctors have moved him to the intensive care unit in the hospital. Amber told me that people can still talk to Matt, but there is little response from him. He is now being fed through a tube from a machine. The doctors have no idea how long he will remain in the coma. The doctors also have no idea how long he will remain in the hospital because of all the unexpected things that have happened.
I am hoping Matt will survive this disease. Each year nearly 27,000 adults and more than 2,000 children in the United States learn that they have a type of cancer known as leukemia (Veritas Medicine). There are statistics based on other patients with cancer, but doctors cannot use statistics to predict what will happen to Matt. The doctors told Amber that no two patients are alike, and that treatments and responses vary greatly. Hopefully, Matt will be cured and will not pass on like my grandmother.
American Cancer Society. 2001. American Cancer Society Inc. 15 June
Procrit. 2002. Ortho Biotech Products, L.P. 15 June
Veritas Medicine. 15 June <http://www.veritasmedicine.com/
Wheat, Amber. Personal interview. 15 June. 2002.