There are two things on earth that every sick person wishes for – hope and strength: Hope for a day when your pain is zero, and strength when you feel like that day will never come; hope for the day your life will return to normal, and strength for those who will never be able to experience “normal” again.
For a cancer survivor like myself, I found the hope and strength I needed during my cancer journey at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center.
On April 12, 2013, at the age of 15, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL), a fast-growing type of blood cancer in which the bone marrow produces too many immature white blood cells called lymphoblasts. Up until that point, I was living the life of an average teenager; I was active in sports and focused on my schoolwork. I was a few months away from completing my sophomore year in high school and I knew that I had a critical and exciting year ahead of me my junior year.
I had started running on the track team about a month earlier and had been experiencing some pain in my back and chest. The pain would come and go; so at the time, we assumed it was due to sore muscles and my body getting used to running more than I had in the past. However, one night the pain in my back and chest got increasingly worse, so we knew something was terribly wrong. We just never imagined that the diagnosis would be leukemia, or that the trip to the Emergency Department at Connecticut Children’s would roll right into a prolonged hospital stay, surgery three days later to place a port in my chest, and chemotherapy running through my body by Day 4.
In the midst of all the concerns that we had in the first couple of days after my diagnosis, we were able to put one critical decision behind us – where I would get the best possible treatment. We knew through the guidance the doctors provided to us that staying at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center was the right decision. It was so incredibly reassuring to my parents and to me as well when my doctors explained the clinical trials taking place at Connecticut Children’s. Right here and so close to home, we could get the best care available as well as access to the most innovative cancer treatments.
At 18, I am happy to report that I started my freshmen year at Providence College last fall, just weeks after finishing my last treatment.
The last two-plus years of my life have certainly been full of many ups and downs. However, despite my diagnosis and the impact that treatment and many long hospital stays had on my life as a teenager, I have emerged from this experience with my eyes and heart wide open to fully understand the value of a helping hand.