An 'accidental' discovery
Brady Lind of Alexandria is your typical 9-year-old rough-and- tumble boy. He loves hockey and baseball and playing with his brothers Evan, 12, and Caleb, 7.
That's why his parents, Scott and Linda, weren't surprised when he ended up with a possible fracture in his elbow.
His first "bump" came while playing knee hockey with his brothers in the basement at the end of February. A couple days later, he fell on the same elbow during a hockey game.
He was taken in for X-rays. A diagnosis was difficult due to the fluid around the elbow, so the family was referred to an orthopedic specialist.
There it was determined that Brady had a possible growth plate fracture and the family was referred to Gillette Children's Hospital in St. Paul.
At Gillette, an MRI showed that the growth plate was not fractured and surgery was not necessary. Instead, a cast was put on Brady's arm.
Blood tests were also taken, which came back normal.
Back home, life quickly returned to normal. A week and a half later, Brady was playing ball with his brothers and fell on his left wrist.
Another trip to the clinic left him with a brace on this wrist to protect a sprain.
Not long after that, the energetic boy fell off a bed in the family's spare bedroom, hit his knee and landed on his left elbow. This visit to the clinic yielded more X-rays. The knee looked fine, but the elbow appeared to have a fracture similar to the one in the right elbow.
Linda asked the doctor if blood tests could be taken again and her request was granted.
"I was leery that something was going on, and I just wanted it done," she said. Again, the tests came back normal.
The family was referred back to Gillette, where X-rays were done on both elbows and the left wrist. The X-rays revealed something in the wrist that doctors said was typical of leukemia. More blood tests were ordered.
"I argued it, saying that we had already had those tests," Linda said. "I kind of panicked. I didn't want to do the tests again and have them come back differently."
The tests were done, but still nothing unusual was found.
Brady was admitted for surgery on March 30 to biopsy the bone in his wrist. After an hour and a half in surgery, the Linds were informed that the bone was necrotic (the bone cells and tissue were dead). The surgeon removed a sample of the wrist bone as well as a sample of bone from the elbow.
On April 1, after spending Easter Sunday in the hospital, the Linds were told that Brady may have Ewing's sarcoma, a rare cancer of the bone or soft tissue. They were referred to a bone cancer surgeon at the University of Minnesota.
On their way to an appointment at the University on April 5, Linda received a call saying that doctors were unable to get any solid information from the biopsy, because the entire sample was "dead" bone. She and Brady returned home to await another surgery.
"We had hope because we were told that doctors didn't see the normal characteristics of Ewing's sarcoma," Linda said.
Brady underwent surgery again on April 8. The planned hour and a half procedure ended up taking three hours. Doctors had to remove a lot more bone than originally planned.
"They said they took as much as they could without taking the entire wrist bone," Linda explained. "They said it should all grow back and his wrist should be fully functional."
The preliminary results of the surgery pointed to leukemia or lymphoma.
"The good news was that it hadn't spread, but we still didn't have a diagnosis of what 'it' actually was," Linda said.
They got a call the next day saying that it looked more like leukemia, but a bone marrow biopsy was needed to confirm. The family was now under the care of a specialist at Children's Hospital.
Linda awoke at a hotel the morning of the biopsy, April 12, sick with the flu. She stayed at the hotel while Scott took Brady to his appointment. A short time later they got the official results. Brady had Standard B acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
"I know this sounds so strange, but I actually cried tears of joy when they called me at the hotel with the news," Linda said. "I was so relieved. This diagnosis was so much better than Ewing's sarcoma. If you're going to have cancer, this is the kind to have. It's the most curable."
More good news was that Brady's leukemia was detected early, and was only in 11 percent of his bone marrow cells on one side and 20 percent on the other side.
"That's actually pretty low," Linda said. "That explained why his blood work wasn't showing anything yet."
She added that a leading bone tumor specialist said that it's rare for this disease to be found accidentally before symptoms occur. Other than all Brady's little "mishaps," he had no symptoms.
"I think it's truly a blessing," Linda said. "It easily could have gone six to nine months before he had symptoms.
She added that doctors really weren't sure if there was a tie between the injuries to the elbows and wrist to the leukemia.
"They said that the leukemia could have weakened his bones slightly, but they don't really know," Linda said. "I just think it was truly a gift from God. Because we had to X-ray again, the doctors saw something there."
On April 13, Brady had a spinal tap and received his first dose of chemotherapy. He was scheduled to be released from the hospital on April 16, but was kept two extra days after contracting what doctors believe was the stomach flu.
He returned April 22 for another dose of chemotherapy.
"Right now we're waiting for the blood results," Linda said. "They combine those with his results in 29 days to determine a chemotherapy schedule.
It's believed that because Brady's numbers have been so good and that the leukemia was detected early, he will have an easier time with chemotherapy treatments. So far he has had no side effects other than some fatigue.
If all goes well, the Linds expect Brady to have chemotherapy treatments for three years, which Linda said is the standard maintenance schedule.
"Hopefully he'll just have these treatments for five to six months and then go on a once-a-month schedule," she said.
"We're pretty optimistic," she added. "Hopefully he'll be back in school this fall and playing hockey again, but we'll be cautious. He may even get to go back to school for the last week or two this year."
Brady is a 3rd grader at Voyager Elementary School in Alexandria. A tutor is working with him so he can keep up with his class.
"It's definitely been a roller coaster ride the past few weeks," Linda said. "A lot happened in a short amount of time. But I'm glad we now have an answer and can concentrate on the treatment.
"I expect him to be driving me nuts when he's 16, giving me grandbabies at some point, and living to be 105."
She added that the support the family has received from so many people has also been empowering.
Linda is a daycare provider and had to ask her families to find alternative care for their children while she cared for her own.
"I have some pretty amazing families," she said. "They just said, 'do what you need to do.'
"The entire community is just amazing. The outreach from the church, the school, the hockey association, my husband's work (Cowing Robards) and our friends has just been amazing."
Two benefits have been set up for the Lind family:
BRADY LIND BENEFITS
Waffle feed benefit
Sunday, May 5, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Calvary Lutheran Church, Alexandria
Free will donations
Sunday, May 19, 3 to 7 p.m.
Garden Center Lanes, Alexandria
Free will donations and silent auction
Donations for the Lind Family may also be sent to Bremer Bank, Alexandria.
Additional funds provided by Douglas County Chapter of Thrivent Financial
ACUTE LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKEMIA
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is a cancer of the white blood cells characterized by excess lymphoblasts.
Malignant, immature white blood cells continuously multiply and are overproduced in the bone marrow. ALL causes damage and death by crowding out normal cells in the bone marrow, and by spreading to other organs.
Acute refers to the relatively short time course of the disease (being fatal in as little as a few weeks if left untreated). Lymphoblastic refers to the cells that are involved, which are seen in this disease in a relatively immature (blast) state.
ALL is most common in childhood. It has a high survival rate. If treated, more than 94 percent of children with ALL have continuous disease-free survival for five years and appear cured.