“My preschooler son has leukaemia”

Single mum of two Mary Anne Loh, shares her very personal account battling her child’s cancer.

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“It all started with a slight fever, along with a cough and flu, which came and went almost monthly, beginning in January 2015.

In March that same year, Ethan, then 3, also had pain under his armpit, though this went away after a few days. Then the following month, his leg starting aching. This, too, went away on its own. He also started complaining about a stomachache that same month.

In May, worried that he might have hurt his muscles or even his veins, I took him to a paediatric orthopaedic specialist for a proper checkup to address his leg pain.

It was during this checkup that I learnt that Ethan had leukaemia.

The armpit pain he had been experiencing was because his lymph nodes were inflamed. The pain in his legs was also due to the leukaemic cells gathering around his bones. Both his spleen and his liver were enlarged, which explained the stomachache that he was having.

It's like living with a time bomb attached to your heart.”

When he was diagnosed, Ethan’s haemoglobin count was only 4.0 ― the normal is 12.0 and above. His platelet count was 40 ― the normal is 150 to 450.

Unbelievably, from the time he was born till he was diagnosed, Ethan had never had any major illness ― not even a fever. He had never even taken any medicine before his diagnosis. He was a fully breastfed baby from the time he was born, till he was 2½, and when he started taking solid food, all his food was homemade ― by me.

Ethan’s diagnosis is the biggest blow I’ve experienced in my life and I’ve been through some really tough times, but this journey is life-changing.

It changes you in every aspect, knowing that a lot of things can happen and that there is no guarantee of a ‘cure’. It's like living with a time bomb attached to your heart.