Posted: June 1, 2015
7 Years Old at Diagnosis
In July 2010, 7 year old independent, over-achieving Becca Mueller had a continually high fever. Her family took her to the doctor, who ordered a blood test revealing elevated white blood cell counts. Further testing confirmed what Becca’s family feared most…she had developed a very rare type of cancer, biphenotypic acute leukemia – a mixture of both acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
Shortly after diagnosis, Becca started aggressive chemotherapy treatments. She was particularly sensitive to the drugs and developed complications, and spent three months in Hope Children’s Hospital recovering from her treatments. During the week, Becca’s mother, Barb, stayed with her at the hospital, while her father, Kent, was at home with Becca’s 5-year-old sister, Julia. On the weekends, they switched — Barb stayed home, while Ken went to the hospital to ensure Becca was never alone.
The community also rallied to support the family. Neighbors created a food train to provide the Mueller’s with home-cooked meals, and teachers from Forest Road Elementary fed Becca’s appetite for learning. Becca was a constant overachiever and delighted in receiving higher scores than the boys in her advanced math classes. Thanks to the personal attention of her teachers and her own determination, despite missing all of second grade, Becca was able to follow her peers and complete the third, fourth and fifth grades.
The effects of the chemotherapy began to show on Becca’s body. In January 2012, she had surgery to repair damage done to tendons in her hip joints. After many weeks in a double cast, she progressed to a wheel chair. With the help of physical therapy, she became stronger, and was able to use a walker and then braces to walk.
In 2013, after two years of chemotherapy, Becca was finally done! At 10 years old, she was in remission, and the Mueller’s had returned to what felt like normal life. Young Becca regained her independence and returned to life at school.
Unfortunately, Becca relapsed in 2014. This time it would be her sister Julia on whom she would depend. Julia willingly provided the bone marrow necessary for the bone marrow transplant that doctors felt was her best chance for survival. Although the December 2014 transplant was a success, she developed veno-occlusive disease (VOD), a complication of high-dose chemotherapy. The condition occurs when the small veins in the liver are obstructed. Becca’s VOD seriously compromised her liver function, which in turn compromised her kidney function. Becca underwent dialysis, which meant she had to be immobile for 24 hours at a time. Of all the treatments Becca endured, dialysis bothered her most. While she was not in pain, Becca was very anxious.
After years of fighting, Becca lost her battle with cancer on February 11, 2015. She continues to be a source of inspiration for her family, who are committed to increasing children’s cancer awareness.
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