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Inspirational Stories


acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)

I am a 26-year-old cancer survivor and am about to begin my first year of law school.

As I began my final semester of college, it never occurred to me that anything would get in the way of my goal of attending law school. However, I started experiencing extreme fatigue and muscle weakness. At first, I attributed it to the effort I put into my five courses and independent study. However, after being diagnosed with pneumonia, I decided to make the three-hour drive home to rest. Two days later, on April 13, 2018, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

I was truly unaware of the challenges that I would face in the following months, and I will forever be grateful that I returned home. The doctor’s words will always stay with me, that if I had not returned home, there would have been a day when I just would not have woken up. Suddenly, college was behind me. I was unable to graduate with my friends. Instead, over the next year, I spent endless nights in a hospital room. The only time I left my room was for a procedure or radiation therapy. I was told that if I did not receive a bone marrow transplant within three months, I would not live until the end of the year.

As much as I tried to fight it, this disease broke me. While receiving treatment, I could not comprehend how it was affecting me, I just didn’t have the mental capacity at that point in time. In September 2019, a year after I received my bone marrow transplant, I started to realize what had just occurred. The treatment I underwent brought me into remission, but at a cost ― lingering physical and mental trauma.

I have lived in fear this entire time ― the fear of a recurrence of leukemia, having to sit in a hospital bed while receiving high-dose chemotherapy, waiting in the frigid basement where the radiation machine was located, being strapped to a gurney, and sitting in silence as the rays passed through my body. After a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes, the fear of any other irreversible damage done to my body was added to the mix. There was the ever-present fear of death, the feeling that any moment you enter a different hospital room, you may not walk out. The normalcy that I once knew was a feeling that I would never experience again.

For the longest time, I believed that this disease took away my future. I did not view attending law school as a reality. When coming to terms with the possibility that I might not have survived, I cannot help but live with an excess of regret. There was a point in time when I believed that I could move beyond this trauma, but I realize that it will not be possible. I no longer regard this journey as burdensome because it will forever be a reminder that, in my darkest time, I pieced myself back together and overcame the situation I was dealt with. It was the biggest challenge of my life.

One of the things that I have wanted to do as I continue to navigate through survivorship is to share my story. I met with some individuals from LLS throughout treatment, and my parents attended such events as light the night, however, I never was able to get involved to the degree that I had always wished for. Aside from my brother, I had never met anyone in the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) age group that had suffered through something similar in dealing with cancer. Even where I was treated I never encountered anyone to that I could truly relate. As I mentioned in my story, I always had the goal to attend law school.

The journey getting here wasn't the easiest, but I just hope my story can reach at least one person because I know firsthand, despite being a survivor, what it feels like to think cancer has taken away your future. I am attaching a few photos below and giving some context to them. In addition, I am attaching an article that was written on my behalf highlighting volunteer work that I did prior to attending law school. It truly helped me overcome part of what I was dealing with as it helped put things into perspective. I know that may not work for everyone, but, it helped me. In addition to this, please let me know if I can do anything else.

Cancer seized control of my life and deprived me of joy, sanity, and time, but I did not surrender my ambition to attend law school. The realization that I am alive and have a second chance brought about my change in attitude. I have lived in fear for far too long, and I now live with a yearning to put all the effort I can into my future studies, career, and any other challenge that I may face in life.

I am nearing the end of my first year at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. Getting here wasn't easy, but my goal was always to attend law school, and I am glad I saw it through. This August, I will be five years in remission, but it feels like just yesterday, I was leaving the hospital after my bone marrow transplant.

I will never forget when I heard, “I am sorry, but you have leukemia.” I remember the hospital stays, treatments, and uncertainty that followed. Though the law school curriculum is rigorous and demanding, being a survivor has given me a unique perspective.

In the most difficult of times, I always remind myself that there will never be a challenge greater than what I overcame. I wake up each day with a genuine appreciation for this second chance at life. As I continue to pursue my personal and professional goals, I strive to reach other survivors to demonstrate that our experiences have only exemplified that not even in the most difficult of times, must one give up their dreams but strive to persevere and learn from life’s obstacles.