acute undifferentiated leukemia (AUL)
In December 1986, a week after my 15th birthday, I was diagnosed with acute undifferentiated leukemia (AUL) after having unclassifiable arthritis for two years. They now believe that I had pre-leukemic arthritis. So, when I was diagnosed, it was a blessing and a curse. It was a curse given how it turned my life upside down. I was now battling for my life and having to deal with the side effects of the treatment. It was a blessing because now I finally had a diagnosis, and there was a treatment that could be given to finally cure my condition. In addition, I went from an insecure teenager to someone who took control of her life and became determined to make it through it all. I luckily had supportive family and friends and an amazing team of health professionals. I managed to persevere. I did develop joint problems as a result of the chemotherapy and have had multiple joint surgeries over the last 35 years. Yet, I graduated from high school on time, volunteered on a teen crisis hotline, and did a few TV interviews on what it was like to be a teenager with cancer. During college, I started a cancer support group, and after college, I worked first in public health before going back to get my master's in speech-language pathology. I have done lots of traveling, met my husband salsa dancing, and we now have a beautiful 13-year-old son. Yet, continuously to this day, when people hear my story, they often tell me how inspiring and strong I am. They are amazed that despite it all, I always have a smile on my face. I know it is cliche, but there are moments like being in a beautiful place or with people I care about deeply that I can't help but be grateful to be alive. I almost didn't get to have the life I have today if I hadn't gone through it all.