Leukemia Information For Students

Who is this Lou Keymia Anyway?
Does someone you know have leukemia? 
What does that mean? 
What is Leukemia?

Leukemia is a type of cancer caused by diseased white blood cells. Blood cells are formed in the bone marrow (the spongy tissue inside the bone.) When diseased white blood cells are formed, not enough good white and red cells are made. The white cells cannot fight infections and the red cells cannot carry enough oxygen, so the patient feels tired and gets sick very easily. The diseased cells show up in a blood sample because they look different from normal blood cells.

We don’t really know what causes someone to get leukemia, but leukemia is NOT contagious. There is no cure yet for leukemia, but it can be treated. Patients can recover and feel better for long periods of time. This time is called remission.

How is it treated?

Leukemia is usually treated with chemotherapy or radiation. Chemotherapy fights the bad cells with strong drugs. Radiation uses x-rays to break down the bad cells. Both these treatments usually take place in a hospital. Sometimes a leukemia patient will receive a bone marrow transplant, where bad cells are removed and replaced by good cells. The treatments may be hard on the patient. The drugs or the x-rays can make them sick and weak. Sometimes the patient will lose their hair (Don’t worry, it will grow back) or lose a lot of weight. Or they may be feeling too tired after treatment to return to school for a few days. These treatments may also make it easier for the patient to get sick, especially after a bone marrow transplant, so they have to be careful not to be around anyone with a cold.

How can I help?

The best way to help a friend with leukemia is by just being their friend. They may be too tired to run and play at recess, so you could take turns staying  with them to play quiet games, or help them with any school work they have missed. And you could just hang out together and talk. While they are in the hospital getting treatment or recovering at home, you and your classmates can make cards or posters for them. Let them know that you miss them and want to see them soon.

It will also help if you remember how easy it is for your friend with leukemia to get sick. You may have to wash your hands a lot more to keep germs away. You may also have to clean off the desks and tables with antibacterial wipe. And if you have a runny nose or a cough, be sure to keep your distance.

Your friend may be allowed to skip gym class or wear a hat or bandana in school. They may feel bad about looking different or missing out on fun activities. You could tell them how cool their hat is or design a special bandana or scarf with fabric paints for them.
And, make sure you include them in all the activities they are able to do. A big smile will help too!

These websites provide additional information on leukemia:

National Cancer Institute

Federal Drug Administration