After all the dye was washed out and Lexy's hair was dry, her mom, Melissa Becker, said she happened to brush back her bangs. On her daughter's forehead was a perfect cross from the purple dye, like someone had drawn it there with an ink pen, Becker said.
"It just kind of gave us that hope that we're not doing this alone," she said.
Becker, of Aberdeen, said strength from God has helped the family battle Lexy's life-threatening illness. In April, Lexy was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease that affects her bone marrow, her mom said. Lexy; her parents, Melissa and John Becker; and brother, Nicholas, 3, traveled Monday to Minneapolis, where Lexy will undergo a marrow transplant using umbilical cord blood at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.
Monday morning, Lexy received platelets and a blood transfusion at Avera St. Luke's Hospital's pediatric unit. Happily primping with her play makeup beside her on the bed, she seemed to be more concerned with using lip gloss her grandmother gave her than she was with the transfusion.
Began in March
Her ordeal started when Lexy got a fever in early March. Her doctor noticed Lexy's spleen was enlarged and at first thought it was mononucleosis, Melissa Becker said. But lab work showed very low white and red blood cell and platelet counts, she said. The family was referred to a hematologist and oncologist in Sioux Falls for a bone marrow biopsy, which led to the diagnosis.
Myelodysplastic syndrome causes Lexy's body to make defective red and white blood cells and platelets, Becker said. The disease is basically leukemia, though it's called preleukemia because her body has a smaller percentage of cancer cells than what is classified as leukemia, Becker said.
Lexy's first round of chemotherapy was at the end of April at Sanford Children's Hospital in Sioux Falls.
Lexy, a second-grader at O.M. Tiffany Elementary, hasn't been able to go to school, her mom said. But she had a teacher in the hospital in Sioux Falls who helped her finish first grade, and one will be assigned to her in the Minneapolis hospital as well, Becker said.
Lexy was cancer-free after the first round of chemo, so she was discharged in June and referred to Minneapolis for the transplant. Becker said her daughter's leukemia cells have started coming back, though, and will continue to do so without a transplant.
In Minneapolis, doctors will first run tests to make sure Lexy's body is ready for a transplant, her mom said. Lexy then will do another, more intense round of chemo and radiation that will completely wipe out her bone marrow, Becker said. She will then have the transplant.
Doctors are using umbilical cord blood from an unrelated donor that is a full match to Lexy, Becker said. It's just as good as a live bone marrow donor, she said.
"We're pretty excited they found a full match for her," she said.
Lexy must stay in Minneapolis 100 days after the transplant, the most vulnerable stage, Becker said. She will be in the hospital the first four to six weeks, she said. Then she will stay at the Ronald McDonald House until she can go home.
The transplant is the only cure for Lexy's disease, Becker said. After a year, the family will go back in to see if the transplant was 100 percent successful.
"We look forward to that one-year mark," she said.
Becker said it's been hard watching her daughter go through the tough times, like chemotherapy. But she said the family just takes it one day at a time, and it helps that Lexy has such a good attitude.
She said they also have a really good support system. A fundraiser is planned for Lexy on Thursday at the Eagles Club in Aberdeen. Another fundraiser was in June in Becker's hometown, Redfield.
"We just get a lot of support and prayers, and I think that helps the most," Becker said.
Benefit coming up
A fundraiser for Lexy will be 5-8 p.m. Thursday at the Eagles Club, 316 S. Second St. The fundraiser will include bingo, a dinner and a silent auction. For more details, call Zion Lutheran Church at 605-225-6755.
Online: Follow Lexy's journey at caringbridge.org/visit/alexysbecker