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10-year-old beats acute leukemia

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Elementary school student deals with life and death

By Kathy Ross

As LaRue Countians prepare for the annual Relay for Life Event scheduled for May 15 at Hodgenville Elementary School, the local Relay for Life County Committee is focusing on local survivor stories. This is the seventh of eight stories.

Cancer knows no age. Just ask fourth-grader Misty Vittitoe.

For Misty it began at age three when she started complaining to her family about her ears and legs hurting all the time. Mom, Becky Fisher, didn’t think too much about it at first, but then noticed that Misty appeared to be losing the color in her face so she scheduled an appointment with Dr.  Teresa Dao.

Dr. Dao sent Misty to Hardin Memorial Hospital for blood work and told the family to head straight home to await a phone call. In what Becky describes as a whirlwind of events, the next few hours flew by quickly. Dad, Rocky, was on the road with his job as a trucker, and everything was left to Becky. At 2 p.m. the phone rang with the results – a form of blood cancer. Becky and Misty were to report to Kosair Hospital where a medical team was waiting for them.

Once at Kosair, Misty started a series of liquid and tablet chemotherapy, underwent a spinal tap and had a painful bone marrow test to discover that she had acute lymphocyctic leukemia. The disease, which accounts for about 3,800 new cases a year, is the most common type of leukemia found in children.

After seven days in the hospital, Misty was allowed to come home but not before a team of doctors found a small brain tumor which required two hours of radiation for seven consecutive days at James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

At home, the house had to be spotless. No animals, no family or friends over for about six months and home health visits every day. Eventually, Becky was able to assume the duty of flushing Misty’s port-a-cath which was placed under her breast bone so the scar would not be so evident when Misty grew into adolescence.

Looking at her now, she appears to be a typical 10-year-old. Misty enjoys riding her bike and playing with her DSL and Pet Shop figures. She has trouble with her eyesight which is probably a result of the brain tumor and she has had extensive dental work due to the chemotherapy. But she’s been declared in remission for the last three years.

Misty regularly sees her doctors and a recent echocardiogram indicated a scratch on a main artery leading to her heart, most likely a result of the port. Doctors have told the family not to worry, but that’s hard according to Mom. A visit in September will tell the outcome with another echocardiogram and exam.

Becky urges parents to listen to their children’s complaints and to take children to the doctor regularly for checkups. As she looks back at their leukemia adventure, she realizes that their story has a happy ending.

Misty is finishing up her school year at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School and looking forward to summer as a cancer-free youngster.