Prayer Request: Joseph will have a lumbar puncture with intrathecal chemotherapy on Monday 20th of June. This is the standard treatment that he receives and he has done well each time but we would still request prayer for a safe and effective procedure and grace for a day of fasting.
In the picture above Joseph is playing “fireman” with his brothers. They were inspired by a trip to the fire service and here are fully kitted out for cutting open a car wreck and spraying it down with foam. This is the type of play that many boys and girls have at home. However this morning Joseph and younger brother Ezra were home playing a different game. I walked in the living room to hear “Ok, we are at the hospital now and you have too few blood cells…” This was Joseph as the consultant examining his patient (Ezra) and using multiple interventions to deal with the problem of too few blood cells. There was transfusion, injection and then various types of surgery employed. Happily the interventions were successful and the patient fully recovered – to then become the consultant with Joseph as the patient.
Tomorrow Joseph is scheduled for a lumbar puncture with intrathecal chemotherapy. That is a fancy way to say that Joseph will have some chemotherapy injected into his spinal fluid. Joseph has had more than a dozen of these procedures and has three more to go before the end of his treatment. Each procedure carries a certain amount of risk of infection, seizure and drug reaction. However, so far Joseph has not had any negative outcomes from this treatment and we thank you for praying for him.
The purpose of this procedure is to make the central nervous system (brain and spinal column) toxic for leukemia cells. The reason this is done is that when the first successful treatments for childhood leukemia were developed, often the leukemia would return and many times in the central nervous system. It was determined that a few leukemia cells had “hidden” in the central nervous system – which was protected from the full body treatment by the blood brain barrier that normally protects the central nervous system from infection. To get rid of leukemia cells hidden in the central nervous system radiation was used. That was very effective at killing the leukemia cells but left long-term cognitive impairment. It was then determined that chemotherapy injected into the spinal fluid could keep leukemia cells from hiding in the central nervous system and it did not result in long term cognitive loss.
This need to search out and remove every trace of leukemia reminds me very much of the way the Bible talks about sin. Jesus said one of the most astounding things with regard to sin “It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” Here Jesus is NOT advocating self-mutilation but says that even in the most extreme case of our own hands and feet causing sin in our lives we would be better off without them than live with sin. This is very similar to the situation that some children faced in early leukemia treatment that used radiation treatment of the central nervous system – it was better for them to face losing cognitive function – maybe never being able to read – than to have leukemia return, for that meant death. Most of the time we don’t like to hear about sin because it makes us feel like we are being attacked and made to feel guilty. After all who would sign up for a medical test for a fatal disease for which there was no treatment? But in the case of sin there is good news. Jesus did not come to just tell us to avoid sin but to actually remove sin. Now, sin does not have to be feared for it can be confessed and forgiven – no matter how big nor how “small”, every bit of sin can taken away and replaced with pure righteousness.