Ethan Fahey, South Berwick Boy Battles Leukemia
By Amy Bevan email@example.com November 11. 2015
Ethan Fahey is a second-grader at Central Elementary School in South Berwick, Maine, and is surrounded by his classmates who wear “Ethan Strong” bracelets to support him. Ethan was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, which invades the blood and can quickly spread to other organs, requiring immediate treatment last May. Photo by Deb Cram/Seacoastonline
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Seven-year-old Ethan Fahey and his dad Paul can hardly wait for the release of the newest “Star Wars” movie, “The Force Awakens.” They’ve spent hours catching up on earlier episodes in the series, and Ethan proudly wears his favorite character, Darth Vader, on his clothes and sneakers.
But the upcoming movie is more than just entertainment for this family. It serves as a welcome distraction from the second grader’s battle with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL.
“We take each day as it comes,” said Ethan’s mom, Christina. “And enjoy it as much as we can.”
Ethan was diagnosed with this form of cancer on May 6, following a brief illness that included vomiting, fever and other flu-like symptoms. After missing several days of school, Ethan wasn’t feeling better, so Christina decided to bring him to his physician, Dr. Christine Munroe at York Hospital’s Great Works Family Practice.
Noticing Ethan’s spleen felt enlarged, Munroe ordered blood work to rule out mononucleosis. When Christina got the call that she needed to leave work and come into the office to discuss Ethan’s results, she had a bad feeling.
“I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t good,” Christina said.
Ethan’s white blood cell count was 675,000, a clear indication leukemia was a real possibility. According to Paul, a normal range is between 7,500 and 10,000.
Dr. Munroe arranged for Ethan to be transferred to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where doctors confirmed his diagnosis. According to Christina, no one could believe how healthy Ethan seemed given how high his white blood cell count was at the time.
The family, which also includes 4-year-old twins Emma and Ella, has taken Ethan’s illness in stride. Ethan has undergone several rounds of chemotherapy since his diagnosis and will soon begin radiation as well.
While Ethan was initially slow to respond to the treatments, his prognosis is good. Doctors have told his parents his treatment plan has a 90 percent success rate in eradicating Ethan’s type of cancer.
Christina says her initial fears of the treatment’s side effects were much worse than reality. While Ethan has lost his hair and experiences fatigue for several days after chemotherapy, he has not had severe nausea.
“His energy and appetite are definitely up when he’s not coming off a treatment,” said Paul, as Ethan climbed the playground jungle gym while his parents looked on.
The Faheys are in awe of the support they have received from the students and staff at Central School as well as the entire South Berwick community. The PTO provided “Team Ethan” bracelets for all to wear, his teacher June Arbelo offered to arrange child care at the school so Christina and Paul could have a night out alone, and a local girls soccer team held a raffle to raise money for the family’s medical expenses.
“We have a long list of people we need to thank,” said Paul. “A lot of them we don’t even know. It’s amazing that so many want to help in any way they can.”
Christina agrees, adding both of their employers, Wentworth-Douglass Hospital and Local #104, have helped the family in many ways, including collecting donations and items like gift cards, meals and toys for the kids.
While Ethan faces at least another three years of cancer treatments, the Faheys remain strong and are grateful for the support of the community.
“It means a lot to us,” said Christina. “It’s nice to know we’ve got people in our corner.”
A fundraising campaign was started by friends of the Faheys and is available online at www.gofundme.com/ua9gc4.