Jillian’s Story: Surviving B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Shortly after her 4th birthday, Jillian of Waconia, Minnesota was diagnosed with B Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. An otherwise healthy and physically active child who loves swimming and horseback riding, Jillian started experiencing sharp bodily pains and a high fever a short time after starting pre-school. At first, her parents assumed it was just a pre-school related bug however, when the symptoms only became worse, they went to see a specialist at the University of Minnesota on April 26, 2013. They received the shock of their lives when Jillian’s blood work identified patterns consistent with leukemia. Due to the advanced stage of leukemia, Jillian was continually in pain, and luckily the nurse at the Explorer Clinic for the University of Minnesota was able to get Jillian admitted a few weeks earlier. Jillian wouldn’t have made it until her scheduled appointment in May.

Jillian immediately started receiving chemotherapy treatment that is predicted to last two or up to three-and-half years. Dealing with Jillian’s illness has changed the family’s lifestyle and activities due to needing to assess all Jillian‘s potential activities deciding if she can participate based on whether benefit outweighs the potential risks. She won’t be going back to pre-school until after the delayed intensification phase of her treatment has been completed.

Despite these challenges, parents Luke, Megan, and Jillian’s sister Delaney have been able to experience kindness in others and feel that the experience has overall pulled the family closer together as a unit. They feel they have seen immense generosity and acts of kindness that have had a ‘butterfly effect’ on others- occurring when strangers have offered the family assistance during particularly cumbersome times.

“Jillian’s diagnosis is typically thought of as a battle or fight, and while we understand the necessity of that language, we are choosing to look at this as an opportunity for transformation about how we handle the challenges we are given” says Luke.

“We use the analogy of ‘lazy caterpillar cells’ for Jillian’s leukemia— and her chemo treatment as the strong medicine that will turn them into beautiful butterflies.”