On November 14, 2012, two-and-a-half-year-old Lily Earl was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
What followed was 28 months of treatment.
“It’s like a marathon, not a sprint,” said her mother, Sheri, who lived in Calgary for eight weeks when Lily was first diagnosed.
During this time, Sheri said the community support was amazing. By Christmas of 2012, friends and family had donated over $22,000 to help offset the cost of treatment. They also decorated the Earl’s house for Christmas, and had it ready for them when they arrived back home from Calgary on December 22.
As of January 2015, she stopped all chemo, steroids and medication. By July, Lily’s immune system had recovered. She returned to Calgary once a month for blood work and an oncology exam.
In 2016, she was required to return once every two months, and this year, once every three.
For the past three years, the Earl family was expecting that January 2018 would mark Lily’s three-year off-treatment milestone. On Tuesday, November 7, 2017, Lily’s oncologist told her that he didn’t need to see her anymore. This came as a welcome surprise for the Earl family.
The reason oncology exams extend three years after treatment, is that doctors want to make sure that not even one bad cell is left behind which could cause a relapse.
For the next few years, Lily will occasionally check in with doctors to check for side-affects surfacing as a result of the chemo treatments such as heart defects and skin issues. During her 28 months of treatment, Lily was subjected to 28 spinal taps, so for the next few years, doctors will be checking for cognitive issues as well.
From the age of two, to four-and-a-half, Lily was on treatment. She doesn’t remember much from this time.
“Her thing, I think, is that it’s kind of a way of life,” said Sheri. “Going to Calgary and laying out your arm for blood work, is what she’s always done.”
Lily finished her treatment a few months before kindergarten, and is now half way through grade two. Although there were concerns pertaining to cognitive issues, she is on par with all her peers. Her favourite subject is math.
Despite roadblocks in her early life, Lily now lives life to the fullest.
“She can ski all day, she’s in judo, singing, running club, she can eat more than a small man,” said Sheri.
“She hasn’t missed a beat.”