Leandra McFaddin's Story
It is New Year’s Eve 2010 at 11:50 p.m. While the rest of the world is waiting to ring in the New Year, a family sits together at Phoenix Children’s Hospital waiting anxiously for the doctor to return. It feels like forever as they sit there waiting. Agonizing seconds turn into agonizing minutes. When he finally returns, lives are forever changed by what he says next. All tests show that Leandra McFaddin, who just turned 2, has Cancer. These words stop the world dead in its tracks, and hearts drop to the floor. Through tears and sorrow filled eyes the clock can be seen, and the time is now 12:02 a.m. Happy New Year.
The following hours were filled with questions and a bombardment of information. The family did their best to absorb what they could through the shock and lack of sleep, but it was all a bit overwhelming. It wasn’t until 10:00 a.m. until they meet with Leandra’s oncologist, and she was officially diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or A.L.L. This is a type of Cancer in the blood, but according to the doctor, had an 80% chance of being cured. So, as far as Cancer goes, it was the best kind she could have contracted. Still, that was of little comfort. The hard truth was that Leandra was entering a battlefield that has claimed many lives, and the only way to get through it was together. They needed each other more than ever.
The next two years consisted of rounds of chemotherapy. Leandra went through this phase of treatment as well as could be expected from such a young child. In fact, the doctors were hopeful and said “everything looked on track”. Her last round of chemo was on March 21st 2013. She “graduated” and was even granted a wish by the Make-A-Wish® foundation. She and her family were sent to Disney World®. Things were looking up and everyone was staying positive; however, these peaceful times would not last. In August of 2013 a mass of Leukemia cells was found in her brain. Her cancer had retuned, and was more aggressive than ever. Leandra was now given a 50% to 60% chance of surviving.
The next phase of Leandra’s treatment was to find a match for a bone marrow transplant, but before she could have it she need to undergo full body radiation treatments. She needed to be free of her bad cells to make room for the new, good, cells. These treatments are very hard on grown adults, let alone a 5 year old girl. After suffering through 9 treatments plus new, stronger, chemotherapy drugs, a suitable bone marrow match was found. Leandra received her transplant on February 4th, 2014. The transplant went well and Leandra accepted the new donor cells completely. She did not experience graph vs. host disease, which was a big concern. Things were looking “back on track”. Once again though, things took a turn. On September, 29th 2014 Leandra relapsed again. Her chance of surviving now dropped to 20%.
Leandra started more extensive and stronger chemotherapy. She had to have a Broviac line put back in, a catheter placed in her jugular. This time she was not taking to the chemo well and was exhibiting a number of troubling symptoms. Her Broviac was removed and tests were run. The doctors waited too long to discover that Leandra had contracted spinal meningitis and as a result her sinuses and lungs have been infected with Aspergillus. This is a fungus that that is slow growing and forms in pockets. This makes it hard to treat. She is currently taking 3 anti-fungal medicines, but the way the fungus is makes it hard for the medicine to get to and treat the afflicted areas. According to the doctors they can only treat this infection by scraping it out. Unfortunately, it is to wide spread in her lungs to do this, and this fungus is preventing her from receiving chemotherapy.
Leandra’s doctors have said that she is dying and they are running out of what they can do for her. However, Leandra and her family are not ready to give up. The only thing this little girl and her loved ones want is what every normal family wants, and that is the opportunity for her to grow up. Not only grow up, but to live. She has been dealing with this illness for the majority of her life. Never being able to do what every other little girl her age takes for granted like going to school, having sleep overs, or even making friends.
Leandra has been in the care of her grandmother, Esther Hernandez, since birth. Leandra’s birth mother has struggled with substance abuse issues most her life and was in no condition to provide Leandra with the care she required. As a result, Esther has been taking care of Leandra and raising her as her own child, and fighting Leandra’s battles as if they were her own. This family is rich in love, but sadly is not in their finances or resources. They are asking for help from the community, any type of help, whether it is through a donation for new medicines or procedures that could help her, or its information on any possible life saving measure. Leandra needs a miracle, and every one of us can play a small part in that miracle. So, if you are able and have the heart to, please help this little one who has so much more living to do. Thank you and God Bless.