It had been a big year for Dylan. In 2007 he turned five and survived acute lymphocytic leukemia, finishing a treatment regimen that has lasted since he was two and a half.
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) can occur at any age, but it most often strikes people under 19. The disease causes uncontrolled growth and accumulation of lymphoblasts, cells that don’t function like normal blood cells. The condition also blocks production of normal bone marrow cells, which leads to a deficiency of red blood cells, normal white cells and platelets.
When Dylan was diagnosed, his hemoglobin was so low that he could have bled to death from a minor injury. He required multiple units of blood and platelets over the course of three days, as well as a lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy every seven days for the first month. Three days after his diagnosis, he had to have an IV installed to deliver chemotherapy in an attempt to get the leukemia under control. He also underwent blood transfusions once or twice a week for the first month.
Robin tells of her son’s ordeal with the calm of a mother who has faced her worst fears and overcome them. And she has good reason: Dylan has a 95 percent chance of complete remission and living a normal life.
But Robin grows intense and even passionate when she talks about donating blood. “You think, ‘I really need to do this,’ but you don’t. Then it hits you in the face. It’s personal. Now, every time I hear there’s a blood drive going on, I remind people how I felt when Dylan was sick.”