Eliseo Gilbreath

On February 15, 2022, our lives changed forever. Our 3rd son, Eliseo, was diagnosed with B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. He is in the high-risk category due to his age of 11. This all started early in 2021. He started having some minor pains in his legs that we had just put off as growing pains. In September, he came down with Covid, and from there, we noticed that his fever went down but never really went away. This was also when the pain increased, but it was not daily. I took him to the doctor, where they had me alternate Tylenol and Motrin because there wasn't anything that seemed to be too terribly wrong. His knee started to swell in November, and the pain was unbearable. I took him to the ER, and he had fluid in his knee. They gave him some crutches and told us to continue with Tylenol and Motrin and follow up with our primary doctor; they suspected rheumatoid arthritis or Leukemia. My insurance was about to run out at the end of December, so I decided to get him in with an orthopedic specialist. They did another x-ray and said that the fluid was not there. The pain in his knee, however, was. It was tender to the touch, and it even felt hot. They did some labs, but the only thing that was elevated was his CRP and Sedrate, but not to the point that it caused any genuine concern. Leukemia was highly unlikely because his white blood cell count was average. More tests would need to be run to determine JRA, but we would have to wait for the marketplace insurance. There was a time when he had yet another episode of unbearable pain, and this time I took him to a standalone emergency room in the next town over, but there wasn't anything that alarmed them, so they sent us home. In January, we had no insurance, but I needed a note for school to limit activity and see when he would be able to get off the crutches. We got the note, and the crutches were, as needed. In February, we went to urgent care in the next town over; this was the same place that had diagnosed him with Covid in September. They did some x-rays, and since there was nothing of concern, they decided to send us home. Before they did, I asked them to pull his chart from September and check his weight. People from school had voiced some concern, but I see him daily as his mother, and the change was not noticeable. I knew something had changed, but it did not seem drastic. They pulled his chart, and he indeed had lost 15 lbs in 5 months, weighing 86 in September and 71 that day. Later on, I decided to take some pictures for a side-by-side comparison. I collaged the image I took at the clinic with some from September when he signed up for the band. The change WAS indeed drastic! It didn't sit well with me AT ALL!I shared my concern with family and friends; many gave me ideas on where to go. That evening we drove to Cook's in Fort Worth and arrived around 12:30 AM. They admitted us due to his CRP rate being at a level of 22 when an average rate should be a 2. We were settled in a room and were quickly seen by multiple physicians, each with a different specialty. They did more labs; they took x-rays. There was hardly any time for sleep; I was wide awake because I was just so worried; I wanted answers! Later that day, the Rheumatologist came to see me and asked me to step out. She was straightforward and told me they suspected cancer; his LDH levels were at 3500. At this point, I called my husband; I just couldn't do it by myself anymore.. he immediately started the 5-hour drive to us. They sent in an oncologist. All further testing was put on hold, and the oncologist ordered a bone marrow for the next day. They took us back to do the MRI that evening as well. Dad arrived, and we got some rest. The next day, they took us up to get the bone marrow done, and we learned a few details about the MRI; he had lesions all over his body, from his collar bone down to his feet. I felt so bad! All the nights, he fell asleep in pain, and all I could do was give him Tylenol or Motrin! Around 4 pm that same day, the oncologist came to our room. He confirmed our greatest fear. Our son had cancer.. I have no words to describe what I felt, what I still feel... numb.

They immediately scheduled him for a port insert and his first lumbar puncture where they did a spinal tap and round of chemo through his spine; this was done on the next day, 2/16. That same day we learned that our insurance only covered the emergency part and that admittance was not covered, so they would have to transfer us for treatment. Our options were medical city in Dallas or St Judes in Memphis. I asked about UMC in Lubbock because it was closer to home, and I still had three other boys! They looked into it, and it was something we could do! So we are doing treatments at UMC and are about to start the consolidation phase of treatment. We still have 2 to 3 years of ongoing treatment. For now, Eliseo and I are staying long-term at the RMH in Lubbock. Since it is still a 3hour drive from home and the side effects can be severe, we need to be close to the hospital.

Throughout this, I cannot jump back into the workforce; my unemployment stopped because I am unavailable to work. I will be his full-time caregiver and teacher since he will be unable to return to public school for a while. Most likely his freshman year.

Thank you all so much for the continued support and prayers!

Follow his group on Facebook to stay UTD on his progress.


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