Having your child diagnosed with cancer is life altering. Needing to travel hours from home for treatment adds stress to an already challenging situation. For four-year-old Lucia (“Lu” to her family and friends) receiving acute care at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital in Hackensack, while having her ongoing treatment at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital at Jersey Shore Medical Center made her diagnosis more manageable for her family.
In May 2018, Lu’s parents, Melissa and Eric, brought her to see her doctor after having a fever for an extended period of time. Blood work quickly confirmed that Lu had an incredibly elevated white blood count, a key indicator of leukemia.
“Lu has biphenotypic leukemia which is a mixture of myeloid and lymphoid leukemia (ie ALL and AML together) it is very rare and because of the mixture it is difficult to determine the best treatment since the treatment regimens are quite different,” explained Children’s Cancer Institute Oncologist Jessica Scerbo, M.D.
Lu was initially admitted to the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center. “After receiving her first few weeks of induction chemotherapy at Hackensack we transferred her care to K. Hovnanian for the remainder of her treatment.”
“The team at Hackensack was wonderful. We loved all of the nurses and child life staff on the oncology floor,” said Melissa. “When we were discharged and began going to K. Hovnanaian, at first I was a little nervous, but everyone was on the same page and there was a continuity of care. Maryanne, the nurse practitioner, is so knowledgeable, and Kellie from Child Life is wonderful. Lu loves spending time with her.”
Melissa commented how much Lu likes going to see Dr. Scerbo, and especially visiting her in the new Hope Tower. “She loves looking out of the windows and seeing the ocean!”
Currently, Lu is responding well to treatment. However, the fear never goes away. “I get scared something will go wrong,” remarked Melissa.
Lu is a very happy little girl and loves her older brother and sister. “She likes to dance. However, because we can’t put her in a dance class right now because of her treatment, she has a friend come once a week for a private dance class.”
Melissa urges others to learn about pediatric cancer and the need for research. “I think pediatric cancer research is extremely important. It’s sad and disappointing how little awareness there is for pediatric cancer research needs. My daughter’s leukemia is extremely rare, there are only 56 cases diagnosed each year. Research is vital. There is still so much more we need to know.”