Cancer can strike any part of the body. Emily’s leukemia started in her bone marrow. This soft tissue inside bones makes blood cells (see Blood Breakdown). “In leukemia patients, parts of their blood grow in ways that they shouldn’t,” explains Grupp.
Bone marrow makes B-cells, a type of white blood cell. B-cells normally help the immune system fight infections. But in people with ALL, B-cells don’t develop properly. Emily’s cancer cells multiplied out of control, crowding out normal B-cells. Emily didn’t have enough healthy immune cells, so she became extremely tired. She had fevers, infections, and bleeding.
The first round of chemotherapy didn’t cure Emily’s cancer. So she began a second, stronger round. When patients with ALL need more chemotherapy, they have only a 30 percent chance of being cured. Emily finished her second round of chemotherapy. Four months later, her cancer returned. “We knew we had to try something different or Emily would likely die,” says Grupp.