Pre B cell lymphoblastic lymphoma
It was my senior year of high school, and I was thriving: MVP of the soccer team that went to the state finals; strong academics with an offer to study Natural Sciences at Durham University, one of England’s finest; fantastic friends who were to become even more important to me. My biggest challenge was getting a date for the prom! Things that were within my control were going really well. However, things outside of my control then flexed their powerful muscles, and that high school life ended and a new one began. I was 17 and diagnosed with a rare and very high-risk blood cancer, pre B cell lymphoblastic lymphoma. The specialist medical team at Nemours, Wilmington, took me under their wing, and I began the first of 859 days of treatment using a dozen different chemo drugs. To survive a high-risk blood cancer, high-risk treatments are all that we have. I knew that while the chemo regime was my best hope, it was definitely harming me. My biggest fear was osteonecrosis (bone death) and the massive quality of life impact that it threatened.
The first year of treatment was particularly brutal. However, I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends, and the local community that got me through it. For example, my friends gathered when my dad shaved my head for the first time, adding laughter to that poignant occasion. The prom was, for a few minutes, live-streamed to my bed in the ICU so I could get at least a flavor of that milestone occasion ― at least my date worries had been sorted! A few days after leaving the ICU, Radnor High School did everything required to allow me to walk across the stage at graduation where I was overwhelmed by the standing ovation from my classmates and their families. Treatment days at the hospital were long and draining, but a meal train ensured that we were welcomed home with a hot delicious dinner. These were tough times for sure, but they were filled with love and kindness, and it always felt right to me, to seek out ways that I could give back to this caring community. I became involved in fundraising for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and Nemours as soon and as often as I could, taking part in the Student Visionary program and a radiothon in Delaware, plus several other fundraisers.
I am now 22 years old, finishing my master's at Durham, and looking forward to making a difference in the world through my working life. I am in remission, but in 2021, I learned that I had extensive osteonecrosis caused by the therapy. I can no longer do any of the sports I love and have chronic knee pain. In the future I will need both knees replaced and most likely both hips. Overall, I am grateful to be a survivor and now able to support my parents who were both diagnosed with aggressive cancers during the last year of my treatment. As a family, we are committed to LLS and its fight for more targeted and less toxic therapies for pediatric cancer. We Dare to Dream that no family should lose their child to blood cancer.