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
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
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
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.