acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
Two weeks before my 18th birthday, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Weeks leading up to this diagnosis, I had constant headaches, a sore throat, extreme fatigue, and one morning when I blew my nose, I noticed blood. I went to a performing arts high school, and I was performing a solo dance at our dance show. In the middle of my dance, I ran to the back and threw up. I went to my physician a few times, and I was told that I had the stomach flu. One morning I woke up for school feeling so bad that decided to call an ambulance so that I could go to the emergency room. While in the hospital, they did bloodwork, and I ended up falling asleep. When I woke up, my mother was there with a concerned look on her face. A doctor came in and informed us that it could either be aplastic anemia or leukemia. In recent months, my mother and I actually had been arguing a lot, and when the doctor left, she walked up to me and said, “Do you understand what he said? This is God’s way to try to get us to love each other again.” We sat and cried together. I was transferred to Montefiore Children's Hospital that night where I underwent more tests. On January 15, 2015, my mother and I sat at a long table surrounded by several nurses, doctors, and an oncologist. That is when the oncologist closest to me said, “After looking at all of your test results, I’m sorry to say but you have a form of leukemia.” Everything that was said after that sentence was a complete blur. I was in complete and utter shock. My mother was crying, and I then went through the denial stage. I requested a second opinion, and when I was told they already had a second opinion, I started refusing treatment. I told them that I wasn’t going to lay on a hospital bed for months, stopping my life, and suffering from chemotherapy to only end up dying. This was after they told me that I’d have to be inpatient and had a 30-40% chance of survival. Eventually, I felt so suffocated that I had to leave the meeting. I went to my room, looked out of the window at the clear blue sky, and said to myself, “This is a beautiful world, and soon I won’t be in it.” Eventually, I returned to the meeting, and we all spoke for a bit more. After the meeting ended, I had a panic attack and threatened to leave the hospital. I started packing my bag, and I tried ripping the IV needle out of my arm when a couple of nurses came rushing in trying to calm me down. All this while my mother sat by my side crying. The nurses made a deal with me that they would let me go home for a few days if I agreed to come back to do treatment. I agreed, but I had a secret plan to enjoy my last few days outside, and the day before I was due to return to the hospital, I would commit suicide. My plan was derailed when I got so sick that I had to be rushed back to the hospital the following day. I went through several vigorous rounds of chemotherapy before I was in remission. I then received a stem cell transplant that required more chemotherapy and radiation. My stem cell transplant journey took about four months. I went through a couple of complications including graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). I was officially declared cancer-free and was released from the hospital the day before Thanksgiving. Sadly, I ended up back in the hospital shortly after when I went into septic shock. I was in the ICU for a while before I was sent to a physical therapy rehab hospital for two months. My recovery, gaining my strength back and my life back, was very hard and long.
Now at 25 years old, I am a six-year cancer survivor, a college student, and I work as a concierge at an apartment complex. I also travel solo to different countries, and I am pursuing an acting career. I’ve also gone back to my old high school to tell my cancer story. As far as my future, I would like to be a motivational speaker, an actress, and a model. I’d also like to open up my own foundation dedicated to helping sick people and their families ― physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, literally in any way that I can. I’d also like to build homeless shelters that resemble 5-star hotels.