05 Apr 5-year-old boy finishes chemotherapy after nearly 1,200 days of treatment
For Joey and Lauren Williams, 2013 will be a year they will never forget. After taking their son Ben, then 3-years-old, for his wellness check-up one afternoon, they stumbled upon news that would change the course of their lives forever.
“Our pediatrician decided to check Ben’s hemoglobin levels that day. Not all pediatricians do this, so we were very thankful ours did,” explained Lauren, a mother to 5 kids.
“The fingerprick test revealed that his hemoglobin was abnormally low.”
After one week of iron pills, a second test was performed at Ben’s follow-up appointment. There was still no improvement. The doctor had decided that a CBC (complete blood count) test was necessary.
Soon after the CBC draw, Lauren received an alarming phone call from the hospital saying that Ben’s hemoglobin was at transfusion level.
“We were told to get him to Rady Children’s Hospital as soon as possible.”
Ben was admitted to the oncology floor upon arrival.
“As soon as the doctors entered the room they made sure I was sitting down. I was 7 months pregnant with my 5th child at the time. They told us that the results came back from the bone marrow and Ben did in fact have Leukemia.”
From that moment on, Ben received chemotherapy every day for the next 1200 days.
“His immune system became so weak that our entire family had to make sacrifices,” said Lauren.
“Seven months into treatment, we decided to homeschool the 3 oldest boys. We didn’t want them exposed to other illnesses. If they came home with something, that meant Ben would be at risk too.”
Chemotherapy was physically and emotionally trying for Ben at times. Most days he would have to stay home, away from other people.
“We would try to encourage him by telling him, “‘We just have to get through this and then you’ll have your whole life to do anything fun you want to do.’”
When Ben couldn’t eat or drink for a period of time, his brothers decided that they wouldn’t eat or drink either. “That was kind of how we got him through things. His brothers were amazing!”
After months of grueling tests and treatments, the day had finally arrived.
“Ben’s last day of chemo was surreal,” explained Lauren. “We were looking around and thinking, is this moment really here?”
“We had thought about that day since the moment he was diagnosed. When the doctor came in and said his treatment plan would be 3 ½ years, I thought I heard him wrong. I didn’t think a child could be on chemotherapy that long! It sounded so far away, like we would never get there.”
Ben, now 6-years-old, has been in remission since 2014.
“He is doing so well,” exclaimed Lauren! “He keeps telling us that all he wants to do is play football. For the longest time he couldn’t do any contact sports because of the port in his chest.”
When asked what she’d say to others going through a similar struggle, she told Hope Dealer, “This disease has completely changed our outlook on life. Everyday is a gift. You literally never know what tomorrow, what 8 hours from now will bring. Just keep going! There is a light at the end of the tunnel!”