Teen fights rare combo of diseases
Boy's case poses a challenge, says Aurora specialist
Mike Bamford yearns to jam a tee in the ground, waggle the driver and launch a Titleist as far as it will go, then set out to find the orb and wind up again.
For the moment, though, the 16-year-old looks less like a golfer and more like a boxer nailed with a vicious one-two to the nose.
In a sense, the latter is closer to the truth. Born with cystic fibrosis, Bamford took a shot this summer from leukemia.
The combination of cystic fibrosis and leukemia is rare by any measure. Give that the rare strain of leukemia that struck Mike never has been paired with cystic fibrosis, and Bamford’s case is unique, Dr. Frank Accurso said.
“It presents a tremendous challenge to treatment,” Accurso said after seeing Bamford and his family in the seventh-floor clinic at The Children’s Hospital in Aurora on Tuesday. Accurso has treated Mike for cystic fibrosis since birth.
Given the strange convergence of both illnesses, “Mike is doing extremely well,” he said.
The cut on Bamford’s nose has a more prosaic, but hardly comforting, explanation.
The oxygen mask he wore in the intensive-care unit for days dug through his skin, but couldn’t be moved, he said.
He also lost about 30 pounds over the last weeks, he said.
How Bamford emerges from the one-two of this bout could do much to help children similarly stricken in the future, Accurso said.
Bamford was in the right place to improve and show others how to do the same. The Children’s Hospital is nationally ranked in the treatment of cystic fibrosis and leukemia.
After weeks of treatment in the intensive-care unit and then in an oncology ward, Bamford spent Tuesday night with his family at the nearby Ronald McDonald House.
Leaving the hospital was a major step and, he hopes, the first of several that will lead to him attending a chili-dinner fundraiser for his family Friday evening at the Grand Junction High School cafeteria.
The 29-day course of chemotherapy he endured achieved its main objective: his leukemia is in remission, said his father, Rick, who shaved his head to match his son’s chemotherapy-balded pate.
Not only did the chemotherapy cost Bamford his hair, it caused neuropathy, or a disorder of the nerves, in his feet and toes, leaving them discolored and painful. His feet are soothed, though, by the electrodes attached to his bare toes. The electrodes emit pulses that lure the brain into allowing his flesh to repair itself.
Too high a setting delivers a painful jolt, Bamford said.
“But if you get it just right, it feels good,” he said.
Bamford has been working to break the feet back in, moving about with his dad’s help and with the aid of a walker.
“I’ve been using it to get up by myself,” he said with a quavering voice borne of the exhaustion of chemotherapy and the atrophy of muscles gone too long without flex and exercise. “Sometimes I fall down, but I pick myself back up.”
Bamford gets a week away from the hospital before he has to undergo another 29-day round of chemotherapy.
Even though the leukemia is in remission, his treatment can’t allow for any recurrence, his father said. If leukemia does rear up again, it will be all the more virulent because it will have developed a resistance, Rick said.
Before that, though, Bamford said he planned to attend the fundraiser.
“If you can,” his father cautioned.
“No,” Mike barked out. “I will. I want to be there. I want to see people.”