CRESTVIEW — A Crestview girl is recovering from a cancer that initially scared her parents, but is common for children and is easily treatable.
Earlier this month, Heather Gary and her husband, Kevin Mayberry, noticed something was wrong with Layla, 2, their youngest of four children, following unusual behavior and mysterious bruises found on her body.
"She always wanted to be held, and when we put her down she would start crying," Mayberry said.
Layla was taken to a pediatrician and then to a specialist at North Okaloosa Medical Center before she was transferred to Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.
The diagnosis devastated her parents.
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL — the most common childhood cancer — occurs when bone marrow makes too many immature white blood cells that prevent healthier agents from fighting infections.
More than 6,000 cases of ALL were reported in the United States last year, according to cancer.org, the American Cancer Society’s website. Symptoms include fever and easy bruising; risk factors include exposure to radiation or X-rays before birth.
"After the doctor told us what was wrong with her, we both just broke down and started crying," Mayberry said.
Most ALL-related deaths reportedly occur in adults; this cancer quickly worsens if untreated.
However, early detection increases chances of successful treatment.
"The doctors told us that there is a 95 percent survival rate," Gary said.
Layla has received seven chemotherapy treatments, which, so far, have been successful in eliminating the leukemia from her body, her parents said.
Monday at 10 p.m., the toddler was life flighted to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston to improve her substandard oxygen levels.
"I am about 50 percent relieved, but there is still a long road to go," Gary said.
"Right now, the doctors are trying to get more red blood cells into her body," Mayberry said, adding Layla also was hooked up to a ventilator that removed fluid from her lungs after a recent case of pneumonia.
Layla's condition is fragile due to having a weak immune system.
During the ordeal, the couple has kept family and friends updated on Layla's condition through a Facebook page.
"It’s a way to keep the phone calls down to a minimum," Mayberry said.
The family’s sole income source is Mayberry, who works for a Baker landscaping business. Gary is a stay-at-home mom. Mayberry travels one hour from Crestview to Pensacola to visit Layla when he isn't working.
Medicaid will cover much of the medical costs, but other costs have added up, Mayberry said.
"We have gone through $500 in food and gas within the past two weeks," he said.
Complicating matters is the family’s living situation.
Evicted from a three-bedroom home last year, the family of six — including Layla’s siblings, Cody, 11, Bailey, 10, and Cheyenne, 4 — moved in with Mayberry's parents.
Space is crowded, and doctors have told Gary and Mayberry that Layla will need her own room to recuperate.
The couple has set up an account at BBVA Compass Bank for financial assistance.
The family is currently looking for a residence with three to four bedrooms, where Layla can have her own space, Gary said.
"Our life has dramatically changed from us being a single family unit to being spread out," she said. "It has been rough, but we are making it."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Matthew Brown at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbMatthew.