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Bradley (12) is diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Fishing with friends, playing soccer three times a week, and being so busy playing that he forgot to come home for dinner: Bradley (12) loved being outdoors and going on adventures. That all changed in the summer of 2023 when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. His mother, Shirley Lynn, pregnant with her third child at the time, shares how the family's life has since been centered around pediatric cancer. 

Shirley Lynn: 'It all started when Bradley found a lump behind his ear while wrestling with his father. Our family doctor thought it was a swollen lymph node, maybe the start of a throat infection. But Bradley wasn’t complaining of a sore throat or a cold, which we found odd. Soon after, he developed bruises and spots all over his body. When he became increasingly tired, started seeing double, and began vomiting, we knew something serious was wrong.' 

A different eorld  
An assistant physician at the clinic shared the family's concerns and decided to consult a pediatrician by phone. 'They advised us to come to the hospital immediately. At that time, we as parents didn’t realize it could be cancer. Bradley was the first to think of it. In the treatment room, he said: "I'm so afraid I have cancer." It was as if he sensed it.' 

Soon after, doctors confirmed Bradley's fears. Urgency was critical: his blood values were so high that he was immediately rushed to the Princess Máxima Center in an ambulance. Shirley Lynn: 'Arriving there felt like entering a different world. It all seemed so unreal, something I’d only seen on TV. I remember another mother walking up to me, embracing me, and saying, "I know exactly what you’re going through." She recognized it was our first time at the Máxima Center. It was a bizarre, yet meaningful moment.' 

Heavily pregnant  
At the Máxima Center, Bradley was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, high risk due to his elevated blood values. Shirley Lynn was 34 weeks pregnant with her third child at the time. 'It sounds harsh, but at the moment of the diagnosis, I suddenly wished I wasn't pregnant. I needed to be there for Bradley; how could I do that with a big belly and soon, a baby?' 

She gave birth to a daughter four weeks later. 'I remember arranging Bradley’s medication during labor. It was surreal: giving birth while fearing for the loss of another child. The sadness over Bradley's condition overshadowed everything, even the joy of his sister's birth. To this day, we haven’t had the chance to adjust to being a family of five. Six days after giving birth, I was back at the Máxima Center.' 

Feeling isolated  
Shirley Lynn notices that some relatives struggle to cope with the situation. 'It’s probably discomfort or ignorance, but sometimes it feels like we’re alone. We both run our own businesses, have a baby, a son with cancer, and a six-year-old daughter. To the outside world, it might seem like we’re managing, but in reality, we live day by day, barely keeping everything going. It's hard to explain to those who can't see behind our front door. It can feel lonely.' 

At home in the Máxima Center 
Due to Bradley's treatment, the family often spends more time at the Máxima Center than at home. 'Fortunately, the Máxima Center now feels like home to us. We like coming here. The treatment team is kind and supportive; we feel acknowledged. For Bradley, it's mixed: on one hand, it's where he receives treatment, which isn't always pleasant. On the other, it's the best place to be in his situation, as this is where he can get better.' 

With the goal of getting better, Bradley bravely faces each treatment. Shirley Lynn: 'He rarely complains and makes the most of each day. The chemotherapy is tough, yet he goes to the Máxima Center for every session with optimism. He can’t wait to return to school, fish, and play soccer with his friends. He knows the treatment is bringing him closer to these goals.' 

A light on the horizon  
July 14, 2025, is a date already marked on the calendar. On that day, Bradley hopes to finish his treatment, exactly two years after it started. Shirley Lynn: 'It's our light on the horizon, a day that can't come soon enough. It’s also special because our youngest daughter turns two that day. Last year, the treatment began around her birth, and since then, Bradley and she have formed a special bond. Hopefully, next year on her birthday, we can celebrate the end of this journey. It will be a very special moment for all of us.' 

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