8-year-old Leukemia Patient Returns to School with a special gift

As the kids returned to school this year, excited to see their old friends, one 8-year-old boy’s appearance at a Katy, TX, elementary school was especially poignant.  He left first grade in February of 2017 to begin a life-saving cancer treatment for leukemia.

Ethan Helms was six years old when he was rushed to the emergency room. Lymph nodes on his neck had begun to swell, and an x-ray found a malignant tumor in Ethan’s chest that was creating pressure against his heart.  Doctors monitored his heart in intensive care until they could confirm his diagnosis: T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Ethan has been treated with chemotherapy for the last year and a half, often painful procedures which sometimes require hospitalization.  As Ethan collected “beads of courage” to commemorate each milestone in his treatment journey, his mother, Carissa Helms, remembers the kindness of the doctors and nurses.

“This sensitivity and kindness were present when Ethan’s doctor expressed concern for his physical healing and his emotional needs, and in the gentleness of Ethan’s nurses. He was exhausted and frightened, and they gave him courage,” she said.

More than 6,000 school-age kids are affected by blood cancers each year; the treatments for leukemia and lymphoma range from one to three years. Returning to school after cancer treatment is part of that return to normalcy that these kids crave; it can also make the child wonder if he will be accepted by his classmates again as a friend.

As part of a nationwide initiative to bring smiles and confidence to childhood cancer survivors heading back to school this fall, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which funds blood cancer research and lifesaving treatments, has teamed up with Burlington Stores to offer these child survivors $100 in new clothes. Ethan will take his surprise shopping spree at the Katy, TX, Burlington store, 5000 Katy Mills Circle, on October 19th at 2 p.m.

In addition, from September 9 through December 1, in more than 640 Burlington stores nationwide, customers are encouraged to donate $1 or more at checkout to support LLS’s goal to create a world without blood cancer. The partnership has raised more than $32 million to date.

After working with a teacher at home during his 2nd grade year – he couldn’t be in the classroom for fear of harming his weakened immune system – Ethan attended Jacquizz Rodger’s football camp this summer.  He returned to 3rd grade this year and was able to rejoin his class, mingling again with the friends he remembers.

“Ethan has been an amazing fighter,” his mother Carissa Helms said.  “He has such a strong will and a fierce determination to get his life back.”

“We were lucky; Ethan’s prognosis is good.  Our son would not have had a second chance at life without the work of The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the generous donations from supporters, and the tireless efforts of its volunteers. Awareness leads to funding, funding to research, research to a cure. Talking to others about our journey is not easy, difficult memories come back to mind, but we are determined to bring awareness to this cause,” his mother said.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society® (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, provides free information and support services, and is the voice for all blood cancer patients seeking access to quality, affordable, coordinated care.

For more info, visit lls.org/txg