Skyla Dennis is a warrior. The second-grade student at Pratt Elementary School has been in a whirlwind battle for the last three months and there is a bigger fight ahead.
On Jan. 28, Skyla’s mom Beth Dennis noticed that her daughter had a 104-degree fever, was acting strangely and had problems seeing clearly. Dennis took her daughter to the emergency room, where a blood test showed the child’s white count to be extremely high. The oxygen-carrying red cells were crowded out, decreasing her blood oxygen level, and alert ER personnel realized Skyla was in danger of having a stroke. The rush was on to increase the red cells while further diagnosis was made.
That diagnosis ended up being Acute Myeloblastic Leukemia (AML), a blood cancer that is found more commonly in adults.
At Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, Skyla underwent plasmapherisis to clean her blood while getting critical red cells, as well as an MRI and X-rays to try to gauge the extent of the fast-moving cancer. After 2 1/2 weeks, Skyla was transferred to Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
For Dennis, a single mom working to support her family, the blow was devastating. Setting aside her job at a Lockport auto supply store, she stayed with her daughter around the clock. During the first round of chemo, Skyla lost motor control for nearly a week, and even her fingernails hurt too much be cut.
“Thankfully, I have been able to lean on my mother, brothers and sisters, close cousins and dear friends who are like family for support,” Dennis said.
The mounting bills forced her to return to work a few days a week just to have money for gas, food and new unplanned expenses, but the worry about her daughter became so great, she applied for family leave in order to be with Skyla around the clock.