The Eslinger Family

Megan was born in July of 2007 with a full head of hair! She was very healthy her first year of life. In the fall of 2008 Megan was sick a lot. In January 2009 she hurt her leg getting out of a chair and started limping. The pediatrician felt it was not broken, just strained and we needed to give it some time. Well, limping went to not walking and then she started to run high fevers. Our pediatrician ordered blood work and an x-ray of her leg. A few hours later we got the results and that is when our world was turned upside down. Our pediatrician told us we needed to go to the ER ASAP. After arriving at the ER in Hershey more blood work and x-rays were done. Megan was very scared… And so were we. The Pediatricians and Oncologist began to break the news to us that Megan most likely has Leukemia, but the tests the next day would confirm it. She was admitted into the hospital and diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The date was January 23, 2009. Megan was only 18 months old.

We spent the 1st week of treatment in the hospital. Megan was put through so much those first few days. She had surgery to place an external catheter called a Broviac, blood transfusions, a bone marrow aspiration, spinal tap and started her chemotherapy and steroid treatment. It was a week we will never forget. During this time is when we met our social worker and he introduced us to the Four Diamonds Fund.

It is hard to explain that feeling when you are told about the Four Diamonds Fund. When I think of that moment I get teary eyed. To know that we would not have to worry about medical bills, deductibles, paperwork, etc. was an amazing feeling. It was one less thing for us to worry about so we could focus our attention on Megan. Over the course of Megan’s treatment we would learn more about the Four Diamonds Fund and THON.

Megan’s treatment lasted 2 years, 2 months and 9 days. But who was counting! The first 6 months were the most intense but the entire treatment was a roller coaster. The first few months (or more) of clinic visits were rough on Megan. She was scared and simply did NOT want to be there. We basically did our best to console a screaming, crying and scared child those first months. We were at clinic once a week and sometimes more during most of the first 6 months of treatment. Most of those visits were long days, usually at least 4 hours. A couple of visits were up to 9 hours. Add an hour of travel time one way and that makes for a very long day.

Megan did not walk for about the first 3 months of treatment. Over time and with help from physical therapy she would learn to walk and run again. Her diet was also poor during this time. Eventually she would not take anything by mouth. She had to get an NG feeding tube which went in through her nose and down to her stomach. This is one of the most unpleasant 2 tasks for the nurses and especially for Megan. The nurses hated to do this but they also knew it had to be done. Megan needed some nutrition.

During treatment Megan received many types of chemo via IV, IM (in the muscle), orally and IT (in the spinal fluid). Like many children with cancer, she received multiple blood and platelet transfusions. There were a few hospital stays and many ER trips. The ER is NOT a fun place with a small child. About halfway through treatment Megan was getting sick a lot and started to receive IVIG infusions. Her antibodies that help fight infection were low and this helped replace those antibodies. Of course that meant longer days at clinic, but it was worth it.

In December of 2010 we received some disturbing news. Megan was in the maintenance phase of treatment and only had 4 more months to go. Her oncologist called and said it looked like Megan relapsed in her CNS (central nervous system). He said it was double-checked. We were crushed. It was truly an awful feeling. To make a long story short, the main pathologist finally looked at the slides and said he was uncertain. It looked more like reactive cells than blasts. We went 5 days thinking the relapse was definite because that is what we were told. We are so grateful the other pathologist looked at the slides because we could have very well started an intense chemo schedule for relapsed CNS. Megan received many extra spinals to check for relapse. Thankfully nothing has materialized. Her doctor now thinks it was nothing. We sure hope so. We still worry.

Megan finished her treatment on April 1, 2011 at the age of 3. She continues to do well off treatment. We currently go to clinic every 3 months for a checkup and labs. This will change to every 4 months, 6 months, etc. as the years go by. There are so many things parents worry about having a child with cancer… relapse, secondary cancer, heart problems, learning problems and other long-term side effects. The worries of pediatric cancer unfortunately do not end with treatment. With time those worries have gotten better but when she gets a cold or a fever you can’t help but to over-react and worry.

Megan is 6 years old and in the 1st grade. She loves school. She loves to color, paint, play outside, go to amusement parks, go camping and play with her big brother Austin. Austin could always cheer Megan up during treatment with a tractor ride around the yard. This was especially helpful when she could not walk. Austin will be 10 years old soon and is in the 4th grade. They play nice together most of the time!!

We could not image this journey without the support of our families, friends, THON and the Four Diamonds Fund. It helps to know that so many people care. We are grateful for the wonderful staff at Hershey. They are just top notch. From the nurses to the doctors, child life, music therapy, everyone is just great. Many of those positions are funded by the Four Diamonds Fund so that is another reason this fund is so important to the families. 3 THON is just great. We are paired with FOTO and just love them!!! This will be our 5th THON! You all bring so much laughter and joy to the kids and families. Of course you raise awareness and an enormous amount of money for pediatric cancer, but it’s those smiles on the little faces that are pretty special too. Thank you THON!!

Love, The Megan Eslinger family – Kevin, Debbie, Austin and Megan