Meet Steven: Dealing with a Leukemia Diagnosis With Positivity

by Baylor Scott & White Staff on August 27, 2013

in Patient and Staff Stories

coverFor the better part of a year, three-year-old Steven Barcenas was confined to his house, unable to play with friends, play outside or travel to the local mall. His fragile immune system had to be guarded like a fortress. But on a hot summer’s day in July, the little boy was finally able to feel the refreshing water from a splash pad and the company of his friends and family.

Mrs. Barcenas captured the image of her elated son enjoying an area splash pad with his younger brother Benjamin in her camera’s lens. The photo won the McLane Children’s Hospital Scott & White Facebook summer photo contest.

“It was the first [family outing] he’s been able to attend in months because he was diagnosed with leukemia in October,” Steven’s mom, Mrs. Anabel Barcenas said.

After being diagnosed, the young boy was confined to his house in hopes of avoiding the germs that lurk on surfaces and in shared air spaces in public areas.

“He wasn’t able to do the normal childhood things like playing outside or seeing friends,” Mrs. Barcenas said. “But now that his blood counts are higher and his immune system is stronger, we can actually go out and have fun.”

Watching her son enjoy a day of true childhood bliss makes her realize how far their family has come from the day Steven was first diagnosed.

“He was sick for a week with random fevers and night-sweats,” she said. “We took him to the pediatric clinic and they thought he could have mono. But, I just knew it was something more. The doctor did lab work, and they basically admitted us straight from there to McLane Children’s Hospital. After that is was a blur. We met Dr. [Javier] Kane, Dr. [Melissa] DeLario and Dr. [Guy] Grayson, and the next day he had a bone marrow biopsy, an ultrasound and a spinal test.”

The test confirmed that the three-year-old had leukemia, and two days after being diagnosed, the little boy was undergoing his first chemo treatment.

“He’s been in remission since the thirtieth day of treatment, and is now in maintenance,” Mrs. Barcenas said. “Now we can go and do things and he can act like a normal three-year-old.”

And one of those things is starting preschool.

“He’s super excited,” the boy’s mother said. “Every day he asks about it. He’s ready to go to school.”

While the Barcenases are happy their son is enjoying a normal life again, they still worry about his health.

“As a parent, it’s scary,” Mrs. Barcenas said. “You don’t want him to get sick, but we just have to trust that he’ll be okay. We told him wash his hands and not to put anything in his mouth.”

Steven’s doctors have actually told the Barcenas family that exposing the little boy to some germs will actually help strengthen his fragile immune system.

“He’s like a newborn baby,” she said. “He has to build up his immune system again. If he goes and starts to build it back up, then he’ll be better able to fight off illness in the future.”

But even though Steven has a lot to deal with at three years old, he hasn’t lost his positive outlook on life and his enduring spirit.

“He’s taught us a lot,” Mrs. Barcenas said. “We try not to cry in front of him, but sometimes it happens. He says, ‘don’t cry, we can do it. Don’t worry. Everything will be okay.’ He’s just positive. That’s how he sees life.”

The Barcenas family has had a rough few months, and they feel as though the doctors and nurses at McLane Children’s Hospital Scott & White have made their journey a little bit easier.

“We love Dr. DeLario, Dr. Kane and Dr. Grayson. Since Steven’s treatment began, we’ve called them at two, three or even four in the morning, and they’re always happy to help. And the nurses are really good. They say, hi Steven, every time we’re up there and they’re super sweet. We recommend [the hospital] to everyone.”

Although Steven still has several years left of active treatment, he is doing what he always does—enjoying the moment—and his parents are doing their best to enjoy it with him.

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