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Friday, April 24, 2015 Serving Maine and Lincoln County for over a century. Volume 140 Issue 17

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2/19/2014 2:00:00 PM
Wiscasset Teen Enjoying Life After Leukemia Battle

A healthy Cainin Griffin (center) and his grandparents Marjorie and Carl Overlock have reason to be smiling; the teen's leukemia remains in remission. (Kathy Onorato photo)
A healthy Cainin Griffin (center) and his grandparents Marjorie and Carl Overlock have reason to be smiling; the teen's leukemia remains in remission. (Kathy Onorato photo)
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By Kathy Onorato

In November 2010, when Cainin Griffin was hit with the devastating news he would have to battle to defeat Burkitt leukemia, he didn't dare dream he'd go into remission, would feel great again and resume his life as a normal Wiscasset High School junior.

But that is exactly what has happened.

During the late summer of 2010, his grandmother, Marjorie Overlock, said her grandson, then 13, was complaining of tiredness, aching bones and jaw pain.

She said she didn't think too much of it because he was having a growth spurt and was wearing braces, which could have caused his jaw pain.

Then Griffin started to lose weight, causing more concern. She took him to the pediatrician, then to the orthodontists, and neither doctor said his symptoms raised any red flags, Overlock said.

However in November 2012, her grandson was seen by a different pediatrician who noticed spots on his body, she called "petechiae."

"It was hard to notice the rash, because he a lot has freckles," Marjorie said.

Petechiae are small red or purple spots that appear on the body as a result of the blood's inability to clot blood, usually a result of a low platelet count.

Combined with his other symptoms, this doctor knew something serious was going on and immediately began testing and confirmed the diagnosis of Burkitt Leukemia.

"We were shocked when we heard the diagnosis," Marjorie said.

Doctors told the Overlocks their grandson was six weeks from dying, had he not begun treatment at that time. He was immediately admitted to Barbara Bush Children's Hospital and began an aggressive treatment, which included chemotherapy, intravenous fluids and lumbar punctures.

Marjorie said when she first learned of the diagnosis, she immediately thought of how her dad died six years earlier of a different type of adult-onset leukemia. "It made me fearful," she said.

Cainin Griffin in his hospital room at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital on Christmas eve in 2010, a month after he was diagnosed with leukemia. (Photo courtesy Marjorie Overlock)
Cainin Griffin in his hospital room at the Barbara Bush Children's Hospital on Christmas eve in 2010, a month after he was diagnosed with leukemia. (Photo courtesy Marjorie Overlock)
 
During the many rounds of chemotherapy, Griffin often developed high fevers and infection, which required blood transfusions and many visits to the hospital. Marjorie said Griffin lost nearly 80 pounds during his treatment process.

Carl Overlock, Griffin's grandfather, said the remission rate of the type of leukemia his grandson has, is very high with treatment, but many children do not survive the rigorous treatment.

"Cainin's size really helped him," he said.

Griffin has always been one of the biggest kids in his class. He is currently listed as 6-foot, 3-inches on the Wiscasset High School basketball program and currently weighs 265-pounds, his grandmother said.

She also said in January 2011, indications were that the medical team was on the right track, as Griffin began to make progress and respond to treatment. Although optimistic about her grandson's recovery, Marjorie understood the road to recovery was going to be a long one.

Marjorie left her job at Wiscasset Green for a total of eight months to stay home and care for her grandson. "There were times he wasn't able to do anything," she said.

The Overlocks said what helped get them through the difficult time was the outpouring of community support.

Overlock said the many get-well cards that filled her grandson's room at the hospital, along with visits by friends, family, teachers, and shared stories from parents who went through a similar experience, all offered hope and encouragement.

"It was just amazing, even overwhelming," said Carl.

In June 2011, Griffin had a life-long dreamed fulfilled courtesy of the Make A Wish Foundation. Griffin, who loves basketball, had always wanted to attend the NBA Finals.

Griffin, his grandparents and friend, Travis Padilla, all enjoyed an all-expenses paid trip to game three of the 2011 NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.

With the chemotherapy intravenous port-line still in his chest, Griffin made his comeback onto the basketball court in August 2011 during an AAU summer basketball league.

Griffin said he noticed some loss of skill and stamina. "But I still had my shot," he said.

Griffin has worked his way onto the varsity basketball rooster at Wiscasset High School but some injuries have limited his playing time.

He said one side effect of the chemotherapy was brittle bones that are more easily broken.

During his freshman year, he broke his right ankle and last year he broke his left ankle, injuries that sidelined Griffin for parts of those seasons.

This year he managed to get through the entire basketball season with no broken bones, his grandfather said.

Griffin refers to himself as an average student ... "but getting better," he said. Griffin said he aspires to attend college and major in electrical technology. He currently has no limitations and enjoys fishing, video games, hanging out, and shooting the basketball around.

Marjorie said her grandson's visit to his oncologist have reduced to twice a year. She said, through this experience, she has learned to be more vigilant about her grandson's health. "Probably to a fault," she said.

Griffin smiling, giving the thumbs sign, on Feb. 17 and said, "I feel great."





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