12-year-old overcomes aggressive form of leukemia
Onlookers may think 12-year-old Khalon Howard playing basketball with his brother is nothing out of the ordinary.`
But for the past seven months, it's a scene Stacey Howard, Khalon's mom, could only imagine.
In January, Khalon was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
Stacey said the diagnosis was shocking.
"Never been sick, never a broken bone, never a stitch, never a hospital stay for anything , and then all of the sudden you’re told your child has cancer," she said.
She took Khalon to Riley Hospital for Children to begin an aggressive form of chemotherapy.
"You walk through those front doors for your child to start chemotherapy, it’s like hitting a brick wall," said Stacey.
The first chemotherapy round lasted 30 days and didn't work.
Khalon's blood count stayed extremely low.
"There were sometimes when I was scared I wasn't going to get better because my counts kept going down," said Khalon.
Khalon said during that time little things cheered him up.
"My favorite nurse was Ashley. She would always play the basketball game with me and play games with me," he said.
Stacey says those little things were important to keep him mentally strong.
Little things like allowing family to stay with them, art therapy, socializing with other kids in the hospital and just going outside.
"They even made an exception for him, like we had been there for 45 days and he wanted to go outside," said Stacey. "It just so happened to be unseasonably warm that day, and they made it happen."
After the second round of chemo failed, doctors told Stacey that Khalon needed a bone-marrow transplant, but he couldn't receive one because of a lung infection he had.
"We had been at the hospital at that point for almost 80 days without a break from initial diagnosis, and they knew how bad Khalon wanted to go home. The doctors at Riley came up with a plan," Stacey said.
Riley doctors allowed Khalon to go back home to Mishawaka, and let the infection heal there with Memorial Hospital of South Bend looking over treatment.
Stacey said that time was crucial for Khalon's treatment because it allowed him a mental break. Once the infection healed, he transferred to Cincinnati Children's Hospital to receive the donor marrow.
On June 2, he went in for surgery. On his twelfth birthday, July 5, the doctors called to say the bone marrow took.
"There will be nothing that will lead you to ever be ready for it, but things change in the blink of an eye," said Stacey. "I wake up every day and say, 'Thank you for this day, thank you for my boys, thank you for the help that we got.'"