Leukemia returns to Sooke girl, 9, after stem-cell transplant

A Sooke child who survived a risky transplant in 2012 is back home from hospital in Vancouver, a biopsy having revealed new cancerous cells that appear like tumours in her brain.

Nine-year-old Hannah Day has once again been diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia — a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow.

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However, “her bone marrow is negative and her blood shows no signs of ALL [acute lymphoblastic leukemia],” reads the report.

It turns out the rare twists and turns that have marked the young girl’s cancer continue.

Doctors believe that chloromas — leukemic cells that clump together and look like a tumour — are in her brain.

“There is no standard, textbook treatment for this,” according to notes provided to mother Brooke Ervin following a meeting on April 4 that included her oncologists at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

“Currently, zero treatment plan is in place,” Ervin said. “Hannah is suffering, she has no eyesight. She can only walk with assistance.”

Hannah was originally diagnosed in 2012, at age three, with a rare cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma that attacks muscle tissue.

After a 16-month battle, Hannah was free of the original cancer but, due to the massive doses of radiation she had received, she was diagnosed with chemotherapy-induced leukemia in December 2013.

On March 19, 2014, Hannah received stem cells from her mother. Although only a half match, doctors hoped that Hannah’s cells would recognize her mom’s cells — which once protected her in the womb — and allow them to kill off cancer cells in Hannah’s body.

It was a final attempt to save her life after doctors determined Hannah was too weak to withstand the intensive radiation needed put her leukemia in remission before transplanting stem cells from a non-family donor. The procedure had only a 40 per cent chance of success.

Despite painful complications, Hannah survived.

Doctors considered her cancer-free afterward, but her leukemia relapsed in May 2015. Since then, however, while underweight, she has lived a relatively normal life.

She was “finally able to run, learn to ride a bike and grow that damn hair and all [that’s been] taken away,” Ervin said.

Last month, Hannah complained of excruciating headaches. She was taken to Victoria General Hospital and then to B.C. Children’s Hospital.

It would appear, according to doctors, that the 2014 transplant continues to work and that Hannah’s immune system is keeping the leukemia out of her marrow. However, it has not stopped the leukemia cells from reaching her brain.

The clusters of leukemia cells there will be monitored.

Ervin and Hannah’s father, Robert Day, continue to be at their daughter’s side as a team. Hannah has a seven-year-old sister, Hailey, and a new one-year-old sister, Harper — Hannah’s half-sister from Ervin and new partner Steven Schlatter.

Hannah has already made plans for her 10th birthday on Aug. 7 while her parents focus on what the coming days will bring.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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