Holding hands, 3-year-old Teaghan Bresnahan and her mom run the length
of the lake-front dock. At the dock’s end, Teaghan lets go – and gleefully
leaps into the air to land in the water with a satisfying splash.
It may seem a typical summer scene. But for Teaghan, who has been in
treatment for acute
lymphoblastic leukemia for over a year, it’s particularly poignant. This
type of leukemia usually requires two years of treatment. With the first year
of more intense therapy now behind her, Teaghan is feeling better and getting a
bit more swim time this summer.
Teaghan had always been healthy – in her first two years, her only
sickness was a single ear infection. That’s why her parents, Mandy and James,
were surprised at her two-year annual check-up to learn her blood levels were
off. A second blood test three days later found her levels had worsened. Her
pediatrician suspected a virus. That Sunday, however, Teaghan developed petechiae (small red spots caused by bleeding into the skin) and a fever. Teaghan’s doctor sent them straight to the emergency room. That
night, May 3, 2015, Teaghan was diagnosed with leukemia. Treatment at
Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center started
For the most part, Teaghan has taken treatment in stride. The hardest
part was the initial phase of treatment (called induction), when she was in the
hospital 35 straight days. Teaghan fought through side effects of the various
chemotherapies, as well as a bacterial infection. Teaghan has completed four
out of five phases of her treatment plan, and now is in the final phase of
treatment, called continuation. She receives less intensive chemotherapy, just once a week. Still,
this treatment phase will last many months.
Teaghan has always enjoyed the water and started swim lessons when just
six months old. She visits her grandparent’s house on the lake about once a
week during summer and is always eager to get in the water – to swim, splash and
jump off the dock. Although now she uses a “puddle jumper” (flotation device) to
help her swim, “she gets more and more confident in the water each time,” her
mom Mandy says. “Before long she won't need her puddle jumper to keep her
hair has grown back and she has resumed normal activities. She no longer
has the visual side effects of cancer treatment. But even when she did, she and
her parents didn’t want those to be defining characteristics. Ask Teaghan what
she likes to do, and she might smile coyly and tell you: “I like to make silly
faces!” After which, she might add, “I like to swim and jump off Nana and Grampy’s
dock.” And as she continues to chat, you’ll also learn she likes to dance and
paint and ride her tricycle and cook with her parents.
is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – and this month, Teaghan and other
children at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s are sharing this message: We are more
than you see. Don’t focus on the side effects of our treatment – see who we
really are. Learn more, see more stories, and join the campaign at
In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, the children and teens at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s are sharing this message: We are more than you see.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Dana-Farber/Boston Children's the #1 pediatric cancer hospital in the nation.