Leukemia: common health symptoms plagued 12-year-old Josiah Garcia

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YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- As 12-year-old Josiah Garcia and his mother Erika sit on the couch they look at pictures, reminiscing on the past two-and-a-half years.

It all began when Josiah became sick and had symptoms that anyone could have. Common symptoms of Leukemia in children are anemia; bone and joint pain; bruising and bleeding; frequent infections; stomachache and poor appetite; swelling in lymph nodes; and trouble breathing.

"He had bloody noses, headaches, he had fevers off and on, and he was sleeping a lot," Erika said.

"I was sleeping about like 18-to-20 hours a day," Josiah said.

When things didn't seem to be getting better, Erika decided to take Josiah to a doctor.

The doctor said Josiah's spleen was enlarged, and immediately sent them to York Hospital, where specialists ran more tests.

"They wanted us to stay there until we got those results. We were there maybe three hours, he slept the entire time. By the time we got the results, the doctor was pretty sure it was Leukemia," Erika said.

From there they were sent to Penn State Hershey Medical Center, where Josiah was admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit. Doctors ran additional tests on him, and started to treat him for blood cancer.

"He had tumors in his spleen, tumors in his lungs. He had 750,000 infected white blood cells throughout his body, and it honestly got to the point where if the chemo didn't work right away, he would have gone to sleep and he wouldn't have woken back up," Erika said.

Chemo started to work, but on his road to recovery, Josiah said he experienced some intense side effects, including feeling drunk and having a seizure.

"I know one of the treatments made me not able to walk at all," Josiah said.

Josiah eventually regained strength, enough for him to go home, but he and his mom still made regular trips to Hershey.

"He did chemo, he didn't do any radiation, which was a plus, but a lot of chemo therapy. We were there once a week for a while getting high doses of chemo, spinal taps, they put a port into his chest where they put the chemo in and it gets pumped directly throughout his body," Erika said.

Between treatments, hospital visits, and home-schooled classes, it was easy for Josiah to feel depressed. However, Make-A-Wish Foundation was able to cheer him up.

"I went to Orlando, Florida with one of my best friends and we went to the Universal Studios and Disney World. It was fun, it felt like there was nothing wrong with me any more and I was my normal self again," Josiah said.

"Today, he's doing amazing. He's still in active treatment, we still go to Hershey Medical Children's Hospital once a month for high doses of chemo, then he still gets his chemo every night that I give him in a shot as well," Erika said.

Erika encourages parents not to ignore chronic, common health symptoms.

"I guess my biggest thing is, every chance you get hug your child. Every chance you get give your child a kiss, give them a hug, tell them you love them. Because you're never guaranteed the next day, you never know what could happen," said Erika.