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Inspirational Stories


acute myeloid leukemia (AML)

In April 2021, as I was just starting to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, I started to feel unwell. I was suddenly very tired and could not finish a soccer match. My family and I decided to reach out to our family doctor and look into my fatigue; we were not worried at all. We attributed my symptoms to adolescence and growth, and so did our doctor at first.

However, within hours of doing routine bloodwork, we received a phone call from the laboratory asking us to immediately drive me to the closest emergency room. I promptly received blood and platelet transfusions. My white blood count was dangerously high, and I needed to be stabilized. I ended up in the ICU that same night. The next morning, I was told that I had acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and that it was very high risk. I needed to immediately start chemotherapy. Within a day, they told me that in order to survive I would also need to have a bone marrow transplant. Our lives stopped, and our world turned upside down. This was confusing and devastating news. How could this be? I ended up staying in the hospital for seven weeks, lost a lot of weight, and lost all my hair due to the chemotherapy treatment. After challenging days, I was able to come home for two weeks, after which I had to go back for another long cycle of chemotherapy. 

We did not know anything about my odds of finding a donor. In the meantime, the hospital had started looking for a match. We did not hear any news for many weeks; it was terrifying. One afternoon, on her way to the hospital, my mom received a phone call that a donor had been identified and that he was willing to help me. All we knew was the donor's age and that he was male. We did not know where he was from, we only knew that he was an absolutely perfect HLA typing match for me. We were beyond overjoyed despite being simultaneously terrified about the treatment preceding the transplant. In early August 2021, I was hospitalized again and went through days of extremely harsh chemotherapy to prepare me for the transplant. I then received my donor's bone marrow. I went on to have some serious issues with graft versus host disease (GVH). In the end, my donor's cells prevailed, and in late November, I was able to finally move back home.

I am now two and a half years in remission and will be leaving for college in the fall. I am so grateful for all the people and science that helped me emerge victorious from this battle. Once I regained my health, I began working with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) as a way to help others. I took part in the Student Visionaries of the Year campaign, as well as advocating for childhood cancer bills in Washington D.C. at the Dare to Dream Summit. I am now working as an ambassador, and my mom has joined the Greater Los Angeles LLS Board. Going into college, I plan to study medicine and one day become a doctor so that I can help cure other patients who have to fight this terrible disease.

acute myeloid leukemia (AML)