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‘It Sucks’: A 10-Year-Old Talks About His Leukemia Relapse

Cobler family
Jude Cobler stands next to a picture of him hanging on a wall at Children's Medical Center in Dallas. Jude's Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia has relapsed.

KERA’s recent Breakthroughs series “Growing Up After Cancer” profiled a North Texas boy named Jude Cobler. He was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was 5 years old. In April, Jude's leukemia relapsed.

There’s an enormous photo of Jude on the sixth floor at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas. It was taken five years ago, right after a successful transplant. He’s smiling, holding an iPad and wearing a dark hat that reaches to where his eyebrows should be.

Today, Jude is on the sixth floor again, but he’s not smiling.

“It sucks, because it does,” Jude says. “It definitely does, but I know I’m going to get through this.”

Jude, who’s 10, has just finished his second of three rounds of chemotherapy. He’s been filling his time with video games, TV, and putting together a computer with his dad, which he said was fun and challenging.

The challenge for doctors, and Jude’s parents Boots and Keith Cobler, is finding the right bone marrow donor.

“In Jude’s case, being … half Caucasian and half Filipino, it’s very difficult to find a match,” Keith Cobler said. “We’re still searching the databases and trying to get people to join the registry with Be The Match to get on that. It’s really a difficult task for minorities and mixed races.”

Credit Cobler family
Jude Cobler worked on building a computer with his father.

Sometimes, Cobler says, you might find someone who’s registered to donate, but no longer is able to take a week or so off for the procedure.

Credit Lauren Silverman / KERA News
Jude Cobler wears a pin with silver and gold medals -- St. Peregrine, the Holy Spirit and the Miraculous Medal of Mary. It's pinned right above Jude's heart.

In the meantime, the whole family has to be careful. The chemo drugs have left Jude with almost no immunity. As he gets ready to go outside, he straps on a white face mask.

Something shiny glints from his Minecraft T-shirt. His mom, Boots, touches what look like charms.

It’s the same pin with silver and gold medals that he wore five years ago when he was first diagnosed with leukemia. There’s St. Peregrine, the Holy Spirit and the Miraculous Medal of Mary, pinned right above his heart.

“He wears it 24/7,” Boots Cobler said. “He doesn’t take it out, only when he takes a shower.”

Learn more

Team Jude: Register with Be The Match to be a potential marrow donor.

Read KERA’s “Growing Up After Cancer,” which followed Jude and his family. 

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.