3 Years Old at Diagnosis
Life was hectic yet wonderful for the Housel family when identical twins Ashley and Samantha arrived in 2010. It became even more hectic when, shockingly, both twins were diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in December, 2013.
Their cancer journey began when Ashley complained of leg pain. Upon examination, her mom, Monique, saw that the leg was swollen with a small spot on it from which veins were radiating. Monique brought Ashley to the pediatrician who first performed an ultrasound to make sure Ashley’s arteries weren’t blocked. The test was normal, so another ultra sound was performed. It showed that her kidneys were full of fluid. Because this was not normal, Ashley was sent to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, Florida where a CT scan was performed. The results showed a mass in her abdomen.
Ashley spent two weeks in the hospital undergoing more tests. Eventually, a stent was implanted to help relieve the pressure on her kidneys and a biopsy of the mass was performed.
While Ashley was in the hospital, her twin sister, Samantha started experiencing symptoms that were remarkably similar to Ashley’s. This time, when her parents called the pediatrician, they were told to go straight to the hospital. Like her sister, Samantha underwent a CT scan and a mass was found, and hers was larger than Ashley’s.
Both girls were transferred to Miami Children’s Hospital and one day later, Ashley was diagnosed with a very rare form of AML that presented as a sarcoma, hence the difficulty in making a diagnosis. Once doctors knew what Ashley had, they were able to correctly diagnose Samantha.
Both girls began receiving treatment immediately and recently completed their 3rd round of chemotherapy. Because this type of AML is so rare, there is no standard course of treatment. As of now, the girls will undergo one more round of chemotherapy. Based on their response, a decision will be made to determine if they will continue with chemotherapy, or undergo radiation or surgery.
Throughout it all, the twins have responded well to their “new normal.” While still too young to truly understand what cancer is, they are coming to understand that they are being treated in the hospital and are different from some of their friends because they are sick. “Ashley and Samantha have amazed me throughout this experience,” explains Monique. “They have always been incredible little girls, but this experience has shown me just how just how remarkable they are.”
As treatment progresses, the family is trying to keep life as normal as possible while they wait to see how the girls respond to treatment.