Fighting Childhood Cancer
Ten-year-old Averi Ramsey is an active fifth-grade girl. She loves to play basketball, soccer and softball. However, sports weren't always part of her daily life. Averi was 7 years old when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). Her mother Tiffany said doctors discovered it while treating Averi for a severe ear infection. "She was really in a lot of pain one day with her ears, and the teacher had called to say she was falling asleep in class," Tiffany said.
The Ramseys took Averi to East Tennessee Children's Hospital's Emergency Department, where doctors informed her family she had more than an ear infection – she had leukemia. "Because of the leukemia, (the ear infection) was not healing," Tiffany said. "It was just getting worse and worse."
Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells. A patient with leukemia has large numbers of abnormal white blood cells produced in the bone marrow, which crowds the bone marrow, floods the bloodstream and no longer protects the body from disease, as they are designed to do. Different types of leukemias account for about 30 percent of all childhood cancers, and ALL is the most common type of childhood leukemia.
The diagnosis scared Tiffany and her family. "When your kids are sick, you think you're going to go in there, and they're going to give you another antibiotic that's going to be even better, but it didn't work that way." The Ramseys' Emergency Department visit had turned into an unexpected 21 days at Children's Hospital. "You're out of school; you're out of work; everything turns upside down," Tiffany said.
Within a few days of diagnosis, Averi started chemotherapy treatment. She said the needles and the medicine were the hardest part of her leukemia. Averi said, "I couldn't go to school because I didn't need to get sick." Not only was she not in school, but she was unable to play sports or be outside on the family farm. The active little girl had to get better first.
At Children's Hospital, she not only received chemotherapy but was cared for in other ways, too. From friendly faces to playing with toys to encouraging words, the pediatric oncology specialists provided comfort during her long days of treatment. She also was able to stay near home, close to her family and her friends. Tiffany said, "I really can't imagine going through this and being anywhere else." Averi continued chemotherapy for more than two years until July 2014, when she had her final treatment. Now in remission, Averi receives blood tests monthly at Children's Hospital's Hematology and Oncology Clinic. She will continue to be tested regularly for the next few years.
For two years, Averi wasn't able to participate in sports or play outside, but now, the adventurous girl is back in action.