I Am A two time cancer fighter diagnosed at the age of 17. I have endured countless blood and platelet transfusions, bone marrow biopsies, and am currently inpatient dealing with side effects from the bone marrow transplant I had Feb. 28th.
I was first diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia on November 16th, 2017. Because of many bad experiences with a couple of different doctors the time I came into the ER my counts were so bad that the doctors and nurses seemed shocked I was walking, talking, and breathing fine on my own.
After my diagnosis I was told I would be held in the children’s hospital for 4-5 rounds of vicious chemotherapy. I was allowed one week in between rounds (when my counts were strong enough to leave the hospital but not start the next dose of treatment) and I actually got to be home for Christmas that year. I ended up spending more around 7.5 months inpatient mainly due to septic shock I had after my last inpatient round of chemotherapy. I hadn’t left the hospital yet but we thought I maybe had a week, which was exciting because I had a DC trip with Camp Sunshine up soon, an awards banquet for American Red Cross Youth Hero Awards as well as Prom. Unfortunately I was unable to attend any of the events but the nurses threw me a prom and I got my award in the hospital as well.
After that I had a pretty great 7 months. I went to Camp Sunshine-a camp for teens and children cancer survivors-and I went to their senior retreat. It was an Outward Bound Event where we camped out in the Colorado mountains with tarps (the councilors had tents while the boys had one tarp to set up and share and the girls had another.) It was definitely a life changing experience with tons of adventures. It was definitely the hardest on me physically as I was closest off treatment and dealt with bad altitude sickness being the only one who lives below sea level and hasn’t spent much time above it.
I also went back to helping my old boss at her art studio, mostly in her sewing classes where she would work with a small group and I focused my attention on one autistic child who needed extra help, both behaviorally and artistically. I then got a new job and was training to be a 911 dispatcher/call taker for my county. The plan was to do that and online college once training was finished. I wanted to become a biomedical engineer which I’ve aspired to be since I was 9.
I still talked a bit to Caleb, who also had AML that went to the Outward Bound program together. Other than the occasional post or two on our snap group chat and instagram/Snapchat following I didn’t really keep up with anyone else. Caleb relapsed sometime in Late September or October. I was beginning to deal with some sketchy lab work and symptoms so it freaked me out as well as genuinely concerned me for him. But we’re both pretty upbeat when it comes to it; so it didn’t seem like too much. Unfortunately I followed close behind and Dec. 6th I relapsed as well. We were supposed to visit him in his hospital (the only hospital around that does BMT transplants) when I was visiting (it’s pretty far from me) but his lab work was good enough not to need a second round originally planned so we didn’t get to see each other.
I then finished my initial round of chemotherapy and went straight into full remission (with a few bumps in the road-I did have a lot of issues with my old hospital). Unfortunately during that time-Caleb passed from an infection which was really hard for me. My best friend I made at camp attended the funeral so it makes me happy to know for sure he got a nice send off with a lot of people who genuinely cared about him. I was then cleared for transplant, and had what so far seems to be a successful one. 🤞 I am dealing with some side effects and back for another inpatient stay, but I’ll likely go back to the Ronald McDonald Soon.
I know that’s a lot of information; but I promise that’s just the basic outline of my story. There is so much to tell and so much to learn about my story. Ask me anything. Nothing’s off limits. There’s a lot of things to talk about and AYA cancers in general are very rarely talked about. My goal is to spread my experience to hopefully help others as well. Most importantly to let people my age know that they do have a voice-and they may have not have ended up in some of the bad circumstances that I did because I was scared to use mine at first.