T-cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia: Sydney’s Story

An earache that Sydney experienced in June 2015 was a cause of mild concern to her parents, Jen and Brian. But alarm set in over the Fourth of July weekend, when the left side of Sydney’s face became paralyzed.

Sydney TCell patient“We were back and forth with doctors all summer,” says Jen. It seemed to be a case of Bell’s palsy. When, a month later, the other side of her face became paralyzed, her parents turned to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

At CHOP, a mass was discovered in Sydney’s chest, and she was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The next day, Sydney, now 12, was in the operating room.

At one point when Sydney was in CHOP’s intensive care unit, her brother broke his wrist badly and landed in the Emergency Department. “It was crazy there for a while,” says Jen.

Several rounds of chemotherapy helped disperse the mass in Sydney’s chest. In June, she began monthly maintenance chemo, and shortly thereafter, radiation treatment.

Sydney describes herself as “outgoing, funny, brutally honest and inspirational,” and some of her favorite ways to have fun are riding her bike, jumping on trampolines, doing gymnastics and going to the beach. Treatment curtailed her activities. “Now it’s arts and crafts, puzzles and word searches,” says Jen. “And she just finished watching 10 seasons of Friends,” she adds with a laugh.

The family’s 2015 Jersey shore vacation was cut short, but they’re hoping to make up for it now that Sydney is in better health. Sydney is a Patient Ambassador for the Parkway Run & Walk on Sunday, Sept. 25. Her team members will be walking and running alongside the thousand of participants who are raising money for pediatric cancer research and care.

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