ALL is a form of cancer found in a person’s blood and bone marrow. The bone marrow makes blood stem cells that may turn into one of two cells — a myeloid stem cell or a lymphoid stem cell. A lymphoid stem cell then becomes a lymphoblast cell (white blood cell).
According to the website cancer.gov, “ALL is the most common type of cancer in children ... In a child with ALL, too many stem cells become lymphoblasts, B lymphocytes, or T lymphocytes. These cells are cancer (leukemia) cells.”
Sarah’s stepmother, Jenny Pittman, said they started noticing how Sarah would bruise easily, how some of the bruises were knotting underneath and how extremely tired she was a large majority of the time. Sarah was taken to Urgent Care because her parents thought she may be anemic; however, blood results uncovered something worse.
“They thought maybe she would’ve been anemic, and they tested her blood and from that point on they sent her directly to Children’s [Hospital] because they knew what it was,” Jenny said. “... Her father’s [B. J. Pittman’s] mother had breast cancer. As far as we know that’s the only cancer that runs through either side of the family.”
When Jenny and the rest of the family first found out that Sarah had cancer, she said their immediate response was just “shock.”
“It’s just more shock than it could be. You always hear and see it on TV, family with children with leukemia, but you never really think that it’s going to happen to you,” Jenny said. “When it does, it is life altering. But, you know that it’s all going to be OK.”
Sarah is one of eight siblings in her close-knit family, which include Melissa Pittman, Kayla Dunn, Austin Pittman, Cloey Duncan, Ryan Dunn, David Duncan and Gregory Pittman. When Jenny was asked what a typical day is like for Sarah, she laughed and said, “Wow! I don’t think we have a typical day or a typical week.”
“If it were a completely normal week where she did not get sick and get admitted to the hospital, it would be every Tuesday we go for chemo at Children’s specialty clinics. It’s usually an all-day event; we usually start at about 8 o’clock in the morning, or before, until about 4:30 or 5 in the evening,” she continued. “Sometimes we get to come back the next day for other things like maybe getting blood, which is very common, or getting platelets, which is also common if her counts get too low.
“Every week is a different round of chemo. We’re always together, whether it be at the hospital or here, but that’s the only typical thing.”
The school has been very supportive of Sarah and the battle she is facing, holding fundraisers, dropping off her textbooks and checking on her constantly. Jenny Pittman said Sarah’s boyfriend, CHS senior Austin Miller, has also been there for Sarah through it all.
Unfortunately because of her cancer, the family has to watch Sarah every day keeping an eye on her to make sure she doesn’t catch an infection or high fever. The only time she is allowed to go out in public is when her blood counts are high enough, Jenny explained. If her counts are low, Sarah is more susceptible to aforementioned infections and fevers.
Thankfully, the family tries to attend their church every chance they get. Jenny said members from Parrish Church of the Nazarene have been “amazing” to Sarah and the rest of the family. When Sarah’s counts are low, they still try to attend chuch even it means sitting in the back and having Sarah to wear a mask.
“Our church has been amazing to us. Our jobs have been very understanding. We’re also getting to know a lot of the other parents of children who have leukemia,” Jenny said. “ ... [Lane Clark] His mother has really been supportive and informative. She knows what we’re dealing with. There’s just a lot of community support, as far as leukemia goes.
“We’re like a leukemia family, I guess you could say. It’s like once you’ve found out you have leukemia, you have a whole new family.”
The family asks that the community continue to pray for Sarah. Jenny said, “she is doing an amazing job coping with all of this, and she is stronger than anyone will ever realize.”
For more information on Sarah’s journey, you may follow her on her Facebook page at Teamsarah.