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Little Girl Continues to Smile After Leukemia Diagnosis


Always glowing with a warm smile, four-year-old Marlie shows no traces of the long battle with cancer that nearly claimed her life.
 

Marlie’s journey began at the age of 16 months when she experienced several bouts of chronic coughing that did not improve with prescribed antibiotics. Around the same time, her parents noticed Marlie’s stomach gradually increasing in size.
 

“We chalked it up to her having the tummy that she never had as a baby,” says Shelley, Marlie’s mother. “We thought it was just a phase.” 
 

Marlie was taken to her family physician when she became feverish and experienced leg pain. Her parents were told that it was probably a viral infection of some kind and Marlie was scheduled for a follow-up appointment. Her condition rapidly deteriorated over the next three days. 
 

“She was really lethargic and she started limping around wherever she walked,” Shelley recalls. “Her stomach was significantly larger and harder, but we decided to wait until we saw the doctor the next day.”
 

Once alerted to the abnormal firmness of Marlie’s stomach, the physician immediately sent the family to the local Emergency Room in Burlington. Tests revealed that Marlie’s distended stomach and liver was due to acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a common but aggressive form of childhood cancer that causes bone marrow to rapidly overproduce immature white blood cells. In need of immediate care, Marlie was sent to McMaster Children’s Hospital, where the family was met at the doors by a team of doctors.
 

“The white blood cells were taking over her body by the time Marlie arrived at McMaster Children’s Hospital,” says Shelley. “They told us that if we’d waited another day, she wouldn’t have survived.”
 

Upon her arrival at McMaster Children’s Hospital, Marlie underwent surgery to implant a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC line) into her chest, and she began chemotherapy.
 

Over the next two years of treatment, Marlie experienced 13 lumbar punctures, 16 blood transfusions, 278 pokes from needles and IVs, and she took 14 trips to the Emergency Room. Her leukemia is now in remission, but the family still visits the hospital every two months for routine checkups and follow-up care.
 

Despite the adversity she has faced, Marlie continues to see the sunny side of life.


“She is my hero for going through a terrible thing and coming out the other side as a funny, caring and smart girl,” says Shelley. “Because of our Hospital family, we survived without it becoming a traumatic memory for Marlie.”

 

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