Topeka (WIBW) - Joel Berry doesn't appear muct different than any other almost-five-year old.
His mom, Melodi, describes him as energetic, happy and always excited.
But nearly two years ago, Melodi noticed some freckled bruising, first on his arms, then his legs. When more showed up, she got it checked out. Within an hour of doing lab tests, she said they returned and told her they had bad news. Joel had leukemia.
What followed was more than a year of constant trips to KU Medical Center in Kansas City for treatments and appointments. She says they would travel at least twice a week, sometimes for extended stays.
Melodi said it was tough on the entire family, with other children in Topeka for whom they needed to make arrangements for rides to school and activities, as well as care. Plus, she says there was the expense of gas for the trips while she was missing work without pay, because she ran out of vacation time.
But KU Med was the closest place with pediatric oncologists, and it's vital for young people with cancer to get specialized care.
Pediatric oncologist Dr. Jakica Tancabelic says the body of a child is different than the body of an adult, so they respond differently to treatment. Plus, she says, they're still growing, so treatments must be adjusted to allow the body to grow and develop. She says special attention to how treatments may affect the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain development.
Thanks to Dr. Tacabelic, treatment for pediatric cancers and blood disorders is now available in Topeka. She recently joined Cotton-O'Neil Cancer Center. Regular chemo, infusions, transfusions, lab work and close follow up all can now be done in Topeka.
Dr. Tacabelic says it should save area families time and money.
It's especially good news for the Berry. Dr. Tancebelic happened to be Joel's doctor at KU Med.
They're happy not only to have treatment close by, but, more importantly, to know Joel's on the road to recovery. Melodi says Joel is doing really well and is officially in remission.