How We Began

Coco's Story
Coco Lazaridis was born very spirited and full of life on August 24, 2009. Her parents knew that she would be special right from the start! She was a healthy baby and was growing and learning day by day.

At three months of age, Coco woke up with a fever and visited her pediatrician, who noticed that she had an enlarged spleen. The pediatrician sent Coco for blood work; tests determined that Coco had either a very serious infection or some sort of leukemia. She was then sent to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for further tests.

A little while later, her parents received what they would come to call the "leukemia call" - Coco had been diagnosed with juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML), an extremely rare childhood leukemia. Learn more about other types of pediatric cancer. JMML usually affects children between the ages of three and 12 months. It is a difficult condition to treat and may require a bone marrow transplant. Learn about registering to be a donor.

Beginning treatment in February 2010, Coco handled her first chemotherapy sessions like a champ while she waited for a cord blood donor. She was crawling around the hospital and playing all day as if chemotherapy was normal for a five-month-old child.

After completing an intense round of chemotherapy, Coco received a cord blood transplant on March 26, a day that her parents call her "second birthday." Coco had a tough time after the transplant, dealing with Graft-versus-host disease and several severe blood infections. The support of her family, who were constantly cheering her up with games, decorations, and music, helped her during her difficult road to recovery. Finally, on June 14, after almost five months in the hospital, Coco was cleared to go home!

Although she still faces constant challenges relating to the effects of chemotherapy and the cord blood transplant, she is an energetic and vivacious little girl and remains at home in remission.

Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia (JMML) is a rare chronic leukemia that affects infants and toddlers, mostly aged four years and younger. The average age of diagnosis is two years.

The cause of JMML is unknown, but doctors do know that certain medical conditions such as neurofibromatosis type 1 and Noonan’s syndrome can put a child at risk for developing it. The signs and symptoms of JMML may include pallor (paleness), fever, poor weight gain, rash, and an enlarged spleen or liver.

Treatment for JMML can include chemotherapy and/or a splenectomy (removal of the spleen). However, the best known treatment for JMML is a stem cell transplant, which can come from either bone marrow or cord blood. Stem cell transplants have been shown to result in cures for JMML, and receiving a transplant can dramatically improve a patient’s outcome. Generally, physicians recommend searching for a good transplant match soon after diagnosis, and starting patients on that critical step towards recovery and remission.

This information was accessed on December 6, 2010 from the web site of The JMML Foundation.


Photos of Coco