Luna vs. Leukemia: A little girl fights a big disease
By Terry Georgia
Luna Mae Jordan is three years old. She is bright, curious and utterly adorable. She is also staring down a demon that would make the strongest among us cower in fear. Luna has leukemia.
B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia to be precise, and it is aggressive.
Luna was diagnosed on Aug. 18 of last year, the day before she was supposed to start preschool. She’d been playing in the pool with her family when she suddenly couldn’t walk. Her mother, Kiersten Brauner, described the scene, “Her leg was bent up at an angle, like a flamingo, and she wouldn’t walk. We took her to the ER, where they did x-rays, but they couldn’t find anything.”
It wasn’t until Luna’s pediatrician referred her to Children’s Hospital in Aurora that doctors did an MRI and the problem became clear. Luna’s knee was filled with “lymphocytic activity” making it impossible for her to walk. A flurry of tests, biopsies and surgeries followed, showing that the cancer was everywhere, from deep in her bones to her spinal fluid and brain.
Luna was immediately placed on a regimen of high-intensity chemotherapy. Her Dad, Silas Jordan, stayed by her side at the hospital while Mom Kiersten cared for Luna’s five-year-old brother Fawkes and her new baby sister, Sunny. Visitors to the hospital’s cancer ward are highly restricted to reduce the risk of spreading germs among patients with compromised immune systems, so whenever Luna is in the hospital, Kiersten has to commute from Berthoud to Aurora nearly every day, bringing supplies and support. The family’s normal, happy life had changed in an instant.
“It’s a hard world to live in,” said Kiersten, referring to having a child with cancer, “it’s overwhelming. It took months for me to decide I could even talk about it.”
Kiersten and Silas had moved to Berthoud about six years ago and bought a 100-year-old home. Their families were out of state, so they didn’t know many people. But once Kiersten opened up to a neighbor about what was happening, she said the floodgates opened. “People came out of the woodwork,” Kiersten marveled, “people I didn’t even know. They set up meal trains, they delivered groceries. It was an incredible response. This community is so amazing, so supportive. Everyone goes out of their way to help.”
Unfortunately, now that they’re facing another three years of treatments and hospital stays in Aurora, they have to consider moving further south to make the commute more reasonable. “We hate to think of leaving Berthoud. We love it here so much,” Kiersten said, “but we don’t really have a choice.” The travel and medical expenses are mounting and family time together is precious.
Luna’s aunt, Megan Jordan, organized a GoFundMe to help the young family defray some of the expenses they never dreamed they’d have to pay. Karsen Stasurak, a friend of Kiersten’s from high school, designed “Luna” T-shirts and launched a fundraiser through her OK Creations Etsy shop — all to help Luna and her family get through this difficult time. “No parent should ever have to endure seeing their child go through something like this and no child should have to go through this,” said Stasurak, “I mean, I get upset if my son gets a fever, I can’t imagine going through what they are going through. [It’s] just unimaginable. So, that’s why I decided I’ll keep the shirts in stock until Luna is all better!”
Luna was accepted into a trial for a promising new drug which requires her to be infused with that drug 24 hours a day. She has to wear a backpack for the infusion equipment. Kiersten says it doesn’t slow Luna down much when she’s feeling good. And Luna has been feeling good lately. She’s doing well enough to rough-house with her brother Fawkes once in a while.
The Jordans are hopeful and have faith that Luna will come out on the other side, healthy and happy. “I feel that having a child with a terminal illness makes many facets of life feel so sweet and true and meaningful,” wrote Kiersten, “while I would never want anyone to have this experience, I hope our story might help even one person take the time to enjoy their health or their children or any of the beautiful things life has to offer.”
It’s also important to the family that people understand the need for more attention on childhood cancer. Blood and platelet donations are critical for treatment and research is severely underfunded. Only about 4% of cancer research dollars go toward treating childhood cancer.
“The development of less-toxic treatments is imperative to the long-term health of these children,” Kiersten emphasized, “One of my greatest fears for Luna (other than losing her) is that she will suffer long-term effects. I hope with research and improvements in treatment, that no other mother will have to face such a heartbreaking prospect.”
The Jordans recommend supporting cancer research through organizations like https://curesearch.org/.
Luna’s chances of surviving this disease are good, but the road will be long and hard.
To help defray some of the family’s expenses, custom-designed T-shirts can be purchased on Etsy.com, search for Luna Mae Tees. They will be available for the duration of Luna’s treatment.
Donations can also be made to the GoFundMe campaign called, “Help Luna Mae Fight Cancer” at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-luna-mae-fight-cancer?qid=8c8c926ed36d4a978cdd11a953895533/.
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