Hartselle boy winning fight against leukemia
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
Josh Pohl of Hartselle was just 5-years-old when he was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, an adult cancer that is fairly uncommon in children.
After seven months of chemotherapy treatment at The University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Pediatric Hematology/ Oncology at Children's Hospital, his mother, Beverly Pohl, said he is in remission and again enjoying a normal childhood.
"Josh played baseball this season and is looking forward to playing soccer this year," Beverly said. "Just looking at him now, you'd never know that he had been so sick."
Josh, 6, started his first day of first grade at Barkley Bridge Elementary School last Friday.
"He missed several weeks of kindergarten, but all of the teachers at Barkley Bridge were so good to us through his treatment," Beverly said. "They really worked with us, checked on us and prayed for us. The whole community really surrounded and supported us."
Beverly said Josh was very active before being diagnosed with leukemia, so much so that any signs of illness were hard to detect.
"It was the bruising that really alerted me," Beverly said. "They weren't the normal bruises that kids get. These were different. They were alarming."
What started out as the first day of a summer beach vacation for Beverly, her husband Jay, and their two sons, Jacob and Josh, ended as the first day of a lengthy and trying battle for Josh's life.
"I stopped by the doctor's office a couple of hours before we left for the beach to have some blood work done on Josh," Beverly recalled. "Within a hour, I got a call to come back to the doctor's office. The doctor told us Josh needed to be taken to UAB immediately for a blood transfusion and that his blood tests were suspicious of leukemia."
The reality of Josh's situation didn't sink in for Beverly until the family reached UAB a few hours later.
"It really didn't hit me until I walked onto the children's cancer floor and saw so many bald children pushing I.V. poles around," Beverly said. "I couldn't believe this was happening to Josh."
Beverly and Jay knew that there were two kinds of leukemia Josh could have-acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) or acute myelogenous leukemia (AML)-and also knew that AML was not the one to have.
"The treatment time for AML is shorter, but more intense," Beverly explained. "AML commonly only occurs in adults and the chance of survival is only about 30 percent. Jay and I prayed for it to be ALL, but the doctors told us it was AML. We were devastated."
After two extended hospital stays, infections, chemotherapy treatments, numerous medications, and the emotional roller coaster of making and losing friends on the children's cancer floor, Josh beat the odds and defeated his leukemia.
"The doctors say he isn't completely out of the woods or considered cured for five full years," Beverly said. "But he gets his blood checked at UAB once a month and is just doing great so far."
Curing Childhood Cancer
According to statistics, 12,000 children nationwide are diagnosed with some form of cancer annually, of which 35 percent do not survive.
After Josh's battle with leukemia, Beverly said she and her family have new priorities in life.
"I wouldn't give anything for the lessons we have learned," Beverly said. "I know now that clean rooms aren't what's important in life. Living life is what's important."
Spreading the word about childhood cancer research is also important to the Pohl family.
That's why Beverly made a $50 commitment Friday at the Morgan County license department for a special "Curing Childhood Cancer" car tag.
Making Miracles of Birmingham, sponsoring cancer research organization for the car tag, must have 1,000 commitments by July 31, 2004 to make the research fund generating tag a reality.
The cost of each tag is $50 with $41.25 of each purchase going to The University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at Children's Hospital for pediatric cancer research.
"Curing Childhood Cancer" car tag forms are available statewide at county license departments. Making Miracles founder Deidre Downs said 600-700 children from across Alabama are being treated for cancer at UAB Children's Hospital at any given time.
"More research is the single greatest way to beat cancer," Downs said. "It provides us with better ways to diagnose and treat it."
Beverly Pohl also plans to handout fliers with information about the car tags at Hartselle Depot Days.
"Everyone at Children's Hospital was so good to Josh. This is just a small way of saying thank you and making others aware of childhood cancer and how they can help fight it."