Eagle County toddler trying to beat leukemia
EDWARDS, Colorado – Bekkem Barela learned to walk on Thanksgiving.
In the hospital.
Where he’s been for months.
Trying to beat leukemia.
Bekkem is 1 year old and the happiest kid in the world, mostly.
“We’ve just finished our second round of five rounds of chemotherapy,” said his mother, Ashia Barela. It will take six to nine months to get through all five rounds.
On Saturday, friends are hosting a bingo benefit at St. Clare’s in Edwards.
Bekkem was diagnosed with acute leukemia on Sept. 7. The family celebrated his first birthday in the hospital on Sept. 20.
Leukemia, like most cancers, is a mutant gene that went rampant through his body, Ashia patiently explained. It’s a cancer of the blood, so his immune system essentially does not exist, she said.
“People who’ve seen him cannot imagine that he’s that sick,” she said. “He’s the coolest kid in the world. He’s very laid back, happy.”
When he was born, the first thing the doctor said is that he has dimples, because he was smiling, she said.
There are bad days with the chemo, she said. He’s nauseous and his hair fell out.
He’s recovering from the second round and is doing most of the normal 1-year-old boy things. He makes the most adorable animal noises.
“He learned to walk on Thanksgiving so he’s toddling around the hospital. He loves to read books and play. He’s happy and jovial,” Ashia said.
But there’s that tube coming out of his chest, where the medicine goes in.
There were no signs or symptoms, nothing to indicate what would lie ahead. Bekkem was getting boils on his body and doctors couldn’t figure out what was causing it.
The day before he was diagnosed, he got up from his nap and was having a hard time breathing.
Ashia and William, Ashia’s husband and Bekkem’s dad, took him off to his dermatologist’s appointment to see about the skin problems. The dermatologist said Bekkem looked fine.
But something just didn’t feel right, Ashia said, so they took him to their pediatrician. That doctor said Bekkem looked OK, but seemed a little off.
So they landed in an emergency room, where serious testing began immediately.
After about three hours of testing, they got some the first blood work back. Bekkem’s white cell count was through the roof, and some of those cells were mutant.
It was almost certainly leukemia, the doctor told them.
“I didn’t even know what leukemia was,” Ashia said. “It was like the breath taken out of me.”
They were rushed by ambulance to Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, and that’s where they’ve stayed.
“It was horrible. It’s still horrible,” Ashia said.
She and William grew up in the valley and both graduated Battle Mountain High School, Ashia in 1999 and William in 1994.
When word filtered back to the community, people almost immediately started doing everything they could to help. The silent auction will include hundreds of items, including Denver Broncos tickets, Colorado Avalanche tickets, gift certificates, hotel and restaurant packages. The list goes on and on, as do the offers to help from around the community.
“The support has been amazing,” Ashia said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.