acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
I was a 10-year-old kid when I was diagnosed with leukemia. I was a happy, energetic kid who loved being outside and was a straight-A student. However, my whole childhood was put on hold indefinitely once I had cancer. Rather than having sleepovers at my friend’s houses, I was sleeping over at the hospital. It was hard to lose my energy, smile, confidence, and hair as treatment took over my life. It was really hard to understand as I was just a kid getting injections, procedures, chemotherapy, and surgery without truly understanding why. All I knew was that everyone around me was crying and sad. I was just going through the process blindly to get better.
It was almost 4 years of chemo before I was finally put into remission. At this point, I was a quiet 14-year-old kid in junior high, barely starting to build my confidence back as my hair was back, and I was beginning to feel my age again. I spent most of my time in school rather than in the hospital, which was a significant change of scenery. However, I soon started high school, and my confidence was back to normal. I was involved in cross country and track and did well in school once again.
During my sophomore year of high school, I went for a checkup, and my doctors told me my cancer might be back. As you can imagine, I was terrified as my life had just resumed to normal. After a Bone Marrow Biopsy and at the age of 16, my doctors confirmed that my leukemia had come back in full force and would need to start treatment right away. Learning that I had leukemia for a second time was so much more devastating, not just because I knew what I had to go through but also because it had taken me a cruciating amount of time to just feel normal and be me again. I started chemotherapy and lost my hair once again. I was told that I would need to go through the same treatment I went through as a kid, almost 4 years long.
Soon after I started chemo, my doctors realized I had built up a tolerance for the chemo, so they decided it would be best if I received a bone marrow transplant. It was a more complex process but had a higher success rate for me to be in remission. I was soon admitted into the hospital for my transplant, which required me to go through one week of high-dose chemo and radiation to wipe out my current bone marrow and prepare me for my new one. It was difficult as I spent almost 3 months without going home. Overall, my transplant went well, and I returned to high school for the second half of the year.
After my transplant, I was ready to make the most of my second chance that I was given. During my treatment, I received resources from many organizations that helped support me along my journey. One of those organizations was The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society which provided me with critical financial assistance as bills piled up for our family. Because of organizations like LLS, which were vital along my journey, I knew I wanted to do the same for other patients. So, I started an organization dedicated to providing hope to children, teens, and young adults affected by cancer. As an organization, we have raised over $100,000 for other patients affected by cancer.
With LLS, I am a peer support mentor and a Children’s Initiative Ambassador. As a Children’s Initiative Ambassador, I hope to help decrease the gap in awareness, funding, research, and safer treatment options for Childhood Cancer Patients.
As an ambassador, “We’re on a mission to take cancer care to the next level and improve the quality of life for all children with blood cancers (LLS).”
Being a Children’s Initiative Ambassador with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is close to my heart as not only was I diagnosed with leukemia, a form of blood cancer, but I was also diagnosed as a child. It has been amazing to give back to an organization that gave me hope when I needed it most.