Joey's Story

Joseph Alvarado was born April 8th, 1991, He weighed 7 lb., 13 oz. He had
tons of black hair, and was everything we ever dreamed of. Joey was such an
easy baby, always smiling, always happy. He grew before our eyes and the
next thing we knew he was off to kindergarten. For Christmas 1996 Joey asked for a little sister. The Doctors had told us it would be nearly impossible
for us to conceive again. Shortly after Christmas we found out I was
pregnant. Natalie was born August 29, 1997.

I remember well, the last day of kindergarten. They had a pretend beach
party. All the kids were running all over the place. Joey sat on his beach
towel and watched the kids play. I remember as a Mom thinking, he has no

Joey's cousin had a Birthday party with one of those bounce houses, there
were about twenty kids there. I watched as Joey sat on a chair and watched
the kids. I went out to talk with him and I asked him what was the matter,
he replied nothing I am just kinda tired. What six year old would not be
jumping like crazy in one of those things? The next day was Father's Day,
Joey was too tired to really do anything. He was complaining about several
different parts of his body hurting, mostly his tummy and his jaw. My
husband (Jim) and I decided to take him to the after hours pediatric clinic
in town. Joey hid in the bathroom, he must have known how ill he was. When
the Doctor finally looked at him, she thought he had appendicitis. I
remember being so worried about possible surgery.

They drew his blood then started an IV, all of which he was so very upset
about. They kept us overnight, and in the morning two residents came in and
said, "your son has leukemia, we just do not know what kind." They transported Joey in an ambulance, which he said was the greatest day of his life. It was a horrid day for us as a family and this little boy say's " I love
ambulances, this is the best day of my whole life." We ended up praying for
a "good" type of leukemia. Twenty four hours earlier I was hysterical about a possible scar on his belly from a simple surgery. Now he was fighting for his life.

The Oncologist who came in to tell us that Joey had leukemia was Dr. Ajovi
Scott. I remember so well this feeling of extreme heat rushing my entire
body. Like I was holding back my tears, fears, anger, nervousness, anxiety
and how I did it made my body boil. We found confidence in the way Dr.
Scott spoke. But, what I admired most was when it seemed the adults were
not ready to hear anymore news, he turned to Joey (little Joey) sat at the
edge of his bed and told him, "Joey I am Dr. Scott, I treat people who have
problems with their blood. We believe you have leukemia in your blood." I
realized that this man cared about my baby too. They declared that Joey had Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, the most common of all leukemia's and the most curable. But to cure him he had to be on a treatment plan that lasted three years and two months.

In that time, we had many ups and down periods where his counts fell or
they looked funny. I think most families go through that type of roller
coaster. We had always told Joey that when his treatment was over we were
having an "OFF CHEMO" party! We all looked forward to that day. Joey's
Grandpa Wickens got involved with the planning of the party, and it turned
into a big bash! We invited all the kids from the clinic, kids from Joey's
class, relatives, friends, Doctors, Nurses, Hospital staff, and Clinic Staff.
It was simply the best day our family has had. Joey spent most of the day
in the dunk tank. He found out it was more fun in it than waiting to throw
the balls outside. He was so happy that he felt so good.

We finally made plans to have his port removed on November 10th, 2000, something I was really happy about. It felt like the last part of the
disease was leaving his body.

Joey was attending Wilcox Elementary school full time as a 3rd grader. He
was doing wonderfully. Life seemed so normal. One afternoon, Jim took Joey and Natalie to the afternoon movie. When they returned Jim told me that Joey was limping really badly. Joey seemed to always drag a foot so I was not too concerned. But, come Monday, he was really walking funny. I took him in to the Oncologist who then referred us to Physical Therapy. Watching Joey with the PT, I realized how much he could not do any longer. He could hardly balance. I was very concerned.

The following day when the kids came off the bus, Joey tripped and fell. He
struggled to get up, actually crawled to get something to use as leverage.
We went back to the clinic where they did spinal x-rays and checked him out. They decided he needed to be admitted for a MRI.

Thanksgiving Day, we came home to have dinner. Joey was barely mobile.
After our family feast, I took him back to the hospital. They did the MRI
the following day. A spinal tap the day after. It was then determined that
Joey had relapsed in his Central Nervous System. (Back on the roller
coaster again)

The Doctors do not see CNS relapses too often. We decided to also get a
second opinion from St. Jude. The ride there was so difficult. Joey was on
a drug called Decadron which made him very moody. Together with our
Doctors at Michigan State and the advice we received from St. Jude, we have a treatment plan.




Last Updated: 05 May 2010 03:58 PM