At just 6 years old, Ethan is a tough little boy. Diagnosed in utero with a rare condition that has a high mortality rate, Ethan wasn’t expected to survive birth. But miraculously, he did. And although born with Down syndrome, he was an otherwise healthy child. Until, in October 2009 – just weeks after starting Junior Kindergarten – he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
His parents originally took Ethan to the hospital because he was having trouble breathing,” says his grandmother, Angela Brown of Ridgetown, Ontario, a winner in last spring’s Canadian Cancer Society Daffodil Daily Lottery. “They thought maybe he had asthma and they’d be sent home with puffers. But after some tests, it turned out it was cancer and they didn’t leave the hospital for months.”>
AML, which develops from abnormal myeloid cells, starts suddenly, gets worse quickly and needs to be treated right away. It’s rare in young children, accounting for just 16 per cent of all leukemia cases in children. After being told of their treatment options, Ethan’s parents chose to enroll him in a clinical trial. Although the treatment he received would’ve been the same, being a part of a trial meant that his experience could help other children in the future.
“His parents wanted to make sure that Ethan’s treatment would work for others. Ethan was being helped because other people had been a part of studies in the past and they wanted people in the future to benefit from Ethan,” explains Angela.
Ethan fought cancer with five chemotherapy treatments every 28 days for six months. In March 2010, Ethan went into remission and was able to go home with his family. “The doctors expected him to relapse but so far he’s been fine,” says Angela. “We were told that the odds of him coming through without a bone marrow transplant were slim but he did it. It was hard, but he did it.”
“He just keeps fighting and surprising us. And he always has a smile on his face. He’s such a happy little guy.”