Friday, December 19, 2014

Leukemia - Immunizations after Chemo

Jemma received two immunization shots today: DT&P and Pneumonia & Hepatitis. Six months ago she took her last dose of chemotherapy medicine. Since then her blood has been in recovery. One consequence of taking chemotherapy is nullification or reduction in protection of immunizations received as a baby. Once chemotherapy is finished, doctors wait several months and then begin a series of immunizations similar to what newborn babies receive, but a little more condensed.

Two months ago Jemma had a blood test which checked the effectiveness of her prior vaccinations. The results were mixed. She still had a small amount of protection for some diseases, but no protection against others. The doctors say these results vary among children, and they normally re-vaccinate regardless. Her vaccinations today contained no live viruses. In three more months (nine months from the end of her last dose of chemotherapy) she will be vaccinated against chicken pox, which does contain a live virus. In addition, two months ago she had a blood test for possible diseases transferred via blood transfusions such as hepatitis and HIV. Thankfully, the results were negative for all of the diseases for which she was tested.

Over the past six months we have been acting like a normal family. Jemma has participated in numerous activities and a few days have passed where I didn't even think about Leukemia. However, since Jemma's immune system is in recovery, she is not able to fight off illness nearly as effectively as my other two children.

The week of November 17th she visited the hospital twice due to a virus and had a similar experience beginning on Dec 12th. It's likely that her latest virus was the same virus my son had the week before. In his case, I barely knew he was sick. He had a runny nose and mentioned a sore throat, but was able to play outside and participate in all his normal activities. Jemma, on the other hand, was wiped out. The virus gave her a fever of 103 and kept her out of commission for four days.

While in recovery, she has been sick with several viruses. In fact, the immunizations she received today had to be rescheduled twice. Nevertheless, she is doing very well. Receiving immunizations was a huge milestone. We are all so thankful for the doctors and nurses who have treated Jemma over the past two-and-a-half years, as well as to the scientists who studied Leukemia and developed treatment protocols for this form of cancer.


  1. So thankful for your latest milestone. May this be a year of steps forward. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Congrats on finishing chemo. I hope Jemma is feeling better now. She has been through too much already. I'll be praying for her complete healing and continued good health. I had no idea that chemo wiped out the effectiveness of immunizations like that. Please have a very Merry Christmas and a healthy, happy new year!

  3. Your family is always in our prayers. I know about weak immune systems, and so I feel for Jemma. What is just a trifle for most children can flatten our family for a month or more. It becomes hard to explain. I am surprised that they want to immunize her considering her weak system. Immunizations can be hard on the body. Hugs. Hoping you have a lovely and blessed Christmas.

  4. three cheers to this brave young girl


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