An Overview Of Childhood Leukemia

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The subject of this paper has been difficult to decide upon until a compelling, entertaining and moving story came to light. Friday, November 15, 2013, the entire city of San Francisco pulled together to give a child his wish, according to the Associated Press in many national news reporting agencies. The Make-A-Wish Foundation, is a “charitable organization founded in the United States that grants wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions to enrich the human experience with hope, strength, and joy”. This time the Foundation out did itself by fulfilling the wish of 5-year-old, Miles Scott, by turning the city of San Francisco, CA into Gotham City for the better part of a day to let Leukemia survivor Miles become “Batkid”!. This was no ordinary “playing dress up” for the young leukemia survivor. This “make believe” fantasy, from the super hero lover 5-year-old, reached from the President of the United States, Barak Obama all the down to the actors hired to play the loathsome Riddler and Joker.

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According to the press, the entire city took part to make Miles’ wish be not only fulfilling but also phenomenal. Batkid was first called to action by the Police Chief Greg Suhr, and then went on to fight crime with an adult Batman impersonator by rescuing a damsel in distress from the cable car tracks and defusing a bomb. The United States Attorney General, Melinda Haag, then notified Batkid that there was an “indictment” charging the Riddler and the Penguin with conspiracy and she needed Batkid’s help to bring them to justice. Miles went on to a bank robbery in progress where he captured the Riddler. The mini superhero then needed to save the San Francisco Giants mascot, “Lou Seal” from the Penguin. Every adventure the caped duo tackled they rode in a mock Bat Mobile with police escort and thousands of San Francisco residents lining the streets to cheer on their hero. Even President Obama got into the act by sending a video recording that stated, “Way to go, Miles! Way to save Gotham!”. The boy super hero finished his day by going to City Hall to receive the key to the city, an FBI “raid jacket” and a San Francisco Police Department ball cap. Miles’ family was awarded $10,000.00 from an unnamed clothing company and the Mayor of the city, Ed Lee, proclaimed November 15, 2013 to be Batkid Day forever! The success of this entire adventure was all completed with empathy and a whole lot of care. The incredible participation by many high-ranking officials seems warranted for the young Miles, who was diagnosed with leukemia at 18-months-old and battled the disease to arrive in remission in June of 2013 at age 5.

Childhood Leukemia does not differ a great deal from adult leukemia, except for, “Leukemia is often described as being either acute (fast growing) or chronic (slow growing). Almost all childhood leukemia is acute”. Our textbook defines leukemia: “Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – is a life-threatening disease in which myelocytes become cancerous and rapidly replace normal cells in the bone marrow. This type of leukemia affects people of all ages, but mostly adults. Exposure to large doses of radiation and use of some cancer chemotherapy drugs increase the likelihood of developing acute myeloid leukemia. Acute myeloid leukemia may also be called by several names, including myelocytic, myelogenous, myelobiastic, and myelomonocytic leukemia Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) – also referred to as chronic lymphoid leukemia, strikes nearly 9, 730 people in the United States yearly. Chronic lymphocytic leukemia is characterized by a large number of cancerous mature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) and enlarged lymph nodes. More than three-fourths of the people who have this type of leukemia are over age 60; it affects men two to three times more often than women.

Chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML) – is a disease in which a cell in the bone marrow becomes cancerous and produces a large number of abnormal granulocytes. This disease may affect people of any age and of either sex but is uncommon in children under 10 years old. Chronic myelocytic leukemia may also be referred to as myeloid, myelogenous, and granulocytic leukemia. Leukemia is a disease of the blood characterized by overproduction of leukocytes. Common types include chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). CLL is a malignancy (cancer) of the white blood cells (lymphocytes) characterized by a slow, progressive increase of these cells in the blood and the bone marrow. ALL is a cancer of the lymph cells. It is characterized by large numbers of immature white blood cells that resemble lymphoblasts. These cells can be found in the blood, the bone marrow, the lymph nodes, the spleen, and other organs”.

The classification of the leukemia is extremely pertinent in determining both the type of treatment necessary and the prognosis for the leukemia patient. According to, “Determining its type (acute lymphocytic, acute myeloid, etc.) and subtype is done by testing samples of the blood, bone marrow, and sometimes lymph nodes or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)”. In children, physician’s try to find the immunophenotype the child has by performing, “cytogenetic tests, flow cytometry, and other lab tests provide more detailed information about the subtype of ALL and the patient’s prognosis. These tests help divide ALL into groups based on the of the leukemia”. Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is typically a fast-growing cancer of one of the following types of early (immature) bone marrow cells:

  • Myeloblasts: These cells normally form white blood cells called granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils).
  • Monoblasts: These cells normally become white blood cells called monocytes and macrophages.
  • Erythroblasts: These cells mature into red blood cells.
  • Megakaryoblasts: These cells normally become megakaryocytes, the cells that make platelets.

Two systems have been used to classify AML into subtypes – the French-American-British (FAB) classification and the newer World Health Organization (WHO) classification”. The classifications get into much greater depth from this point. Such as, Hybrid or mixed lineage leukemias and Chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). If the physician’s do not diagnose the form of leukemia correctly and the leukemia is not cured with their treatment plan, the disease can progress into advanced phases.

Luckily the little tike, Miles, not only fought this disease with all his might, he won it! This one wish, for this one small child, touched so many people throughout the country that the awareness of childhood leukemia most definitely grew. It should also increase the donations for research. This kind of “make believe” also did something else; the wish brought together many different people which restores faith in humanity for many people.


  1. Rice, R.N., CMA-C, Jane. Medical Terminology- A Word Building Approach, 7th Edition. Pearson Education, Inc., New Jersey 2012, 2008, 2005.
14 May 2021

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