In January 2013, I was diagnosed with PH+ acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). I had just turned 19 and finished my first semester at the University of Florida. I missed the rest of my freshman year but after eight months in and out of the hospital, I achieved remission and my doctors allowed me to go back to school for the fall.
For a year and a half, I had monthly chemotherapy but otherwise lived an almost normal student life. I played basketball with my friends, attended college football games, joined organizations on my campus and even vacationed with my family to New York. December 20, 2014 was set to be the day for my last chemo session. I would be able to ring that special bell engraved “With hope, anything is possible.” It symbolized the end of treatment.
A month before that long awaited day, however, my family and I suddenly received news that my test results returned unfavorable. December 20 wasn’t going to happen. I had relapsed. The only option left for me was a bone marrow transplant – an extremely risky procedure but my only shot to beat this disease once and for all. I was blessed that my brother was a perfect match.
On January 23, 2015, he gave me another chance at life. I was out for another semester again, but thankfully not completely away from school. The University of Florida Health hospital has one of the best bone marrow transplant units in the country. I was often surrounded by family and friends – they even filled my hospital room on transplant day to sing “Happy Birthday” and celebrate the beginning of my new life.
Two years later, I am thankful to continue my recovery in remission and happy to pursue life as normal once again. My transplant journey has provided me with amazing opportunities ranging from serving as a Gainesville Light The Night director and helping raise over $60,000 for LLS, to volunteering at Camp Boggy Creek as a counselor for children battling cancer. Most of all, I have been fortunate to be able to finish my college career at the University of Florida this past December, along with receiving an acceptance to its Human Performance M.S. program as I follow my dream to become a sport psychologist.
Since my battle with cancer began, people have told me that I inspire them with my story, filling them with hope and courage. Whenever I am asked how it feels to hear those words, I always find myself speechless. I can't help but wonder why a normal guy like myself is privileged enough to be told something so profound. My strength is nothing but a reflection of the undying love I have received from all of my friends and family. It is they who inspire me every day to fight, to hope, and to believe. And because of that, it has become apparent that sickness is merely an illusion, and that attitude, together with love, is what truly creates healing. There is a light at the end of tunnel that I am striving towards every day, and I know for a fact I will reach it soon. With hope, anything is truly possible.