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Reclaiming remission: Dearing teen suffers leukemia relapse two years after being deemed disease free

Katelyn McTier's spring break didn't go quite like she planned. She didn't get to hang out with her fellow seventh graders or go to the movies. She spent the week locked inside her home, south of Dearing.

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Katelyn McTier poses for an Easter photo earlier this year.

It's not the first time Katelyn has been cordoned off from nearly everyone. Almost two and a half years ago, an infection on her brain nearly claimed her life after a third round of chemotherapy knocked out her acute myeloid leukemia, as well as her immune system.

She fought back, walked out of the Medical College of Georgia Children's Medical Center and officially entered remission in January of 2003. She shared her story of survival with The McDuffie Mirror later that year. In the interim, she became a normal kid again.

But that familiarity would soon be washed away by the persistent tide of a disease she had defeated once before.

Three weeks ago, after a checkup, the doctors gave Katelyn the news -- the leukemia was back. She spent a week in the hospital getting a round of chemo, and with her white blood cell counts depleted, went home for spring break.

"I was mad," Katelyn said about learning the disease had reemerged. "It was just a shock I guess."

Katelyn's mother Karen was also stunned at the return of the disease she hoped she had finished dealing with.

"I couldn't believe that we were going to go though this again," Ms. McTier said. "I just know what she went through before. It's horrible to put a child through this."

But the reality has set in, and Katelyn's doctors are working to curb the disease's momentum and prepare her to defeat it once and for all. If the latest round of chemo achieves its purpose, Katelyn will reenter remission. If not, more chemo will come.

She has already begun to feel the medicine's unavoidable negative effects.

"She can't really taste food within the last couple of days," Ms. McTier said. "Her hair's not falling out or anything, yet. They said probably in a couple of weeks that will happen."

Once the doctors agree Katelyn is in remission, she will travel to Atlanta for a bone marrow transplant. Her younger sister Kasey will be the donor.

"That seems to be our only option this time," Ms. McTier said.

"I'm nervous, but I'm OK with it," Katelyn said about the recent round of chemotherapy and the impending bone marrow transplant.

Once the transplant is complete, Katelyn will be out of commission for nearly a month. She said that she's not looking forward to catching up with school work while in the hospital.

For now the chemo is doing its work. Katelyn is exiled in her home for fear of infections that could threaten her life. Her family will wait it out, praying with the rest of the community that something good will come from her suffering.

"I know and I believe God is in control, and He knows the big picture. But it's just so hard to watch your children have to suffer through such an awful disease," Ms. McTier said. "Our faith is still strong in Him. He's going to take care of us and get us through another bump in the road."



Web posted on Thursday, April 14, 2005











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