Friday, January 02, 2009

Another Alaska Success Story: Kenai's Eight-Year-Old Marcus Yamada Fighting And Winning A Battle Against Promyelocytic Leukemia

While the attention of the community of Eagle River, Alaska was understandably focused on ten-year-old Shawn Stockwell, who received a heart transplant and has endured a battery of post-op medical challenges, another Alaskan medical success story has been unfolding down on the Kenai Peninisula. Read the full story published in the Peninsula Clarion on December 29th. Note: The Anchorage Daily News finally picked up this story on January 5th.

Summary: The story discusses the medical challenges faced by eight-year-old Kenai resident Marcus Yamada. Just under a year ago, Marcus was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, promyelocytic leukemia. The diagnosis sent the Yamada family -- Marcus, his mom, dad and brother, Mason -- to Seattle Children's Hospital. From February through June 2008, Marcus underwent various treatments.

Seattle Children's Hospital sees around 2,000 new diagnoses of child leukemia each year. Marcus was only the third case of promyelocytic leukemia reported by the hospital. In addition, medical personnel actually rewrote the protocol on treatment of this type of leukemia as he was going through it.

And so far, the treatment has been successful. The progression of Marcus' cancer was stopped about 45 days after he first arrived in Seattle, and has actually been in remission ever since. But the battle isn't over yet - he's currently undergoing "maintenance chemotherapy" to prevent a recurrence of his cancer. Since returning to Kenai, Marcus has three different forms of chemotherapy he takes orally. He takes one type every day, another type once a week, and a third form is spread out over eight 84-day rounds where Marcus takes the medication the first 15 days of each round. In addition, Marcus also takes anti-anxiety, anti-nausea, antibiotic and anti-fungal medications.

The Yamada family also attributes Marcus' recovery to strong support from extended family and the community. Although multiple fundraisers were put on to help out the Yamadas while key family members were with Marcus in Seattle, critical assistance was provided by other extended family members who sold their shared 10-acre property in the Caribou Hills and gave the proceeds to Marcus' family.

The Yamada family has set up a website where you can find out more about Marcus Yamada and his courageous fight against cancer, as well as view photos of Marcus and his family. WebMD offers a slightly technical but readable explanation of promyelocytic leukemia, and discloses that the survival rate for juvenile patients has now reached 80 percent. So the prognosis for Marcus is good.

But the key to guaranteeing success here has been family and community. First, a committed, intact nuclear family prepared to sacrifice. Second, extended family members to augment the efforts of the nuclear family. And finally, a responsive community. As the ability of government to provide funding and services continues to contract, family and community will take center stage once again. Will our public educational system respond to this change by better preparing the rising generation in our schools to construct more successful families, and to do so in a way that stresses reality over ideology?

This is not about ideology. It's about reality.

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