Surviving Childhood Cancer — Twice

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t know how to react.

I truly never thought of kids getting cancer, and I didn’t really believe all that was happening to me. At the time I wondered, When do I get to go home? It was definitely a roller coaster of emotions, but I knew I had to stay positive and fight.

I am currently 16 years old and an 11th grader at Hutchinson Central Technical High School in Buffalo. I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) five years ago, when I was 11. I got through it, but then I relapsed at the age of 14 and had to have a bone marrow transplant. When I relapsed, it hit me even worse. I was a teenager living my life. I finally had all my hair back, and I really, really didn’t want to go through it all again. My parents definitely helped me realize that I needed to do this again. I needed to fight. I was strong enough.

The dark days were especially hard during treatment. It was just a funk that was hard to shake, but my family was always there. My parents and I would play games, and my siblings would come visit me. One thing that really helped was when, one day during my transplant, my dad brought my dogs to the courtyard at Roswell. During a bone marrow transplant, you’re an inpatient at the hospital anywhere from 30-60 days. It was so hard not being able to see my dogs that long, so it lifted my spirits when they came to visit.

My life has changed a lot because of cancer. Above all else, I have realized that life is precious. Throughout this journey, I have met many new friends, and unfortunately, lost some. I have also been connected with amazing organizations that provided support when times were tough. During my first time in treatment, I didn’t talk to many people, because I was shy and scared. Courage of Carly Fund (then Carly’s Club) and Camp Good Days helped me get out of my bubble by bringing me to events and getting me out of the house or hospital, even if it was just for a little bit. Kaely’s Kindness is another great support group that enables me to spend time with other teenage girls who also have been affected by cancer. It means so much that they know what I am going through and that I can talk to them about anything.

The advice I would give to other people going through cancer at my age is to never give up. Find something that can symbolize your journey and push you to keep fighting. My symbol was an anchor, which represents strength and stability. I also focused on the inspirational quote, “Never, ever, ever give up.”

Spreading awareness about cancer and raising funds for research and care is really important. I’m not sure what field I want to pursue in the future, but one thing I know is that I will always be an advocate for childhood cancer patients.

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Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.