One in a Million: 15-year-old George County boy diagnosed with two types of leukemia
GEORGE COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s not every day that a 15-year-old boy is diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia but, for one George County teenager, this is now his reality.
Recently, Chandler McCardle was unexpectedly diagnosed with not one, but two, forms of leukemia. His parents said his case is one in a million, but they’re prepared for the journey ahead.
It was a normal Thursday this past April when Alison McCardle said her son started complaining that his ear was bothering him.
“That Friday morning, he woke up and it was swollen shut,” she recalled. “My husband took him to the doctor. He went to the doctor and they said there was nothing that they could do for it. He’s gonna have to go see an ENT [ear, nose, throat doctor, otherwise known as an otolaryngologist]. So my husband said while we’re here, he wanted to get some bloodwork drawn.”
That bloodwork would change their family’s lives forever. Chandler’s parents said they noticed he had lost a lot of weight in a short amount of time. He weighed 209 pounds around October 2020, but that dramatically dropped to 157 pounds.
“But he played football and he was a teenager, so we just thought it was football,” said Chandler’s mom. “(The doctor’s office) called us that Friday afternoon, and they said his white blood count was 394 and it might be leukemia and she asked us where we wanted to go.”
Alison McCardle said they weren’t sure, but they knew that they wanted the hospital to be close to home.
“They called and said that we would be going to the USA Health Children’s & Women’s Hospital and that an oncologist would be calling us,” she said.
Days later, she received the call.
“It was probably about Tuesday. I was at school sitting on the playground and (the oncologist) wanted to know where Chandler was. I told him that he was at school, at football. He was like football?! He said ‘No, no, you have to go to him.’ He said ‘Do you know what his white blood count is?’ I said yeah 394. He said 394,000.”
According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the normal number of white blood cells in the blood is 4,500 to 11,000. Chandler was under a blast crisis, said Alison, which means more than 30 percent of the cells in the blood or bone marrow are blast cells, or immature blood cells.
“(The oncologist) was like, ‘You have to go get him now and bring him to the hospital!’ So, my husband went and got him from football. They were fixing to pad up and get ready to play,” said Alison. “We took him to USA. They put us in ICU and did some more bloodwork, and they confirmed it was leukemia. They did a bone marrow biopsy and found out that he had two types of leukemia.
In May 2021, Chandler was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia and chronic myeloid leukemia. Doctors told the McCardle family that CML is normally found in adults, and his diagnosis is one in a million. The American Cancer Society said the median age of diagnosis is someone 70-years-old. Less than 2% of patients are younger than 45 years.
Chandler’s parents were also told that his spleen was 10 times the size it should be and, if he didn’t come in sooner, he would’ve died if he had been hit in his stomach.
Through it all, Chandler said he felt normal.
“I felt the same, same energy,” he said. “I just lost a lot of weight and I had shortness of breath.”
Unlike most students starting school this years, Chandler will be spend his sophomore year at home learning virtually.
Recently, Chandler was searching for a bone marrow donor. He and his family were hoping that his 13-year-old sister Kelsey was a match. The results came back that she was only a 50 percent match. However, they’ve since found a match, and Chandler’s dad Jeffrey McCardle is hoping that the transplant will help his son get back to normalcy.
“You just have to roll with the punches,” said Jeffrey. “We’re trying to get to his bone marrow transplant, hoping for a 100 percent recovery where we can get back to being normal, get back to high school and enjoy high school.”
Chandler is hoping for the same because he said he misses socializing.
“Hopefully, I can get back on next year,” he said. “It’s been really boring not doing things I used to do, hanging out with friends.”
While he has to be careful around other people due to the high risk of infection, his dad knew of one way to cheer his son up: by doing burnouts in their old pickup truck.
The McCardles said the George County community has gathered together to comfort them during this difficult time.
“Lucedale and the surrounding counties have been phenomenal,” said Jeffrey McCardle. “They’ve reached out to us, bringing us food, donations, and just helping out any way possible. Some people want to cut our grass.”
Along with their community of family and friends, Mississippi Highway Patrol troopers participated in a 5K run dedicated to Chandler this past week.
Jeffery McCardle said this process has brought the family a lot closer and has caused them to really put life into perspective.
“Don’t take one day for granted,” he said. “You have to be aware of everything, and if you feel sick, you have to stay on top of things.”
Chandler’s transplant date is scheduled for Aug. 27. To follow Chandler’s journey, his family has set up a Facebook page.
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