I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 14 on October 1st, 2014. Ten weeks prior to this day, I started my Freshman year of High School and had an extremely difficult experience. I had always been active, growing up competing in dance competitions, acting/singing performances, and was an outstanding student. Within the first weeks of High School, I almost fainted while running with my class during P.E. testing, slept through courses, and almost collapsed in bathroom stalls with nobody around to help. Before my diagnosis, I was determined to start a career in the entertainment industry and was going on many auditions to find the right agency to represent me. My first night in the hospital was when I saw my goals and dreams come to a complete stop as I heard my dad on the phone with an agency. I had received my first callback.
The following morning was when they gave me my diagnosis, and I made it my mission to learn everything about my diagnosis, procedures/treatments, and medical terminology I needed to know to survive. I had received over eight units of blood within my first week of diagnosis and several more throughout my two and a half years of treatment. Other procedures included platelet infusions, hormonal medication, chemo shots in the thighs, and several bone marrow biopsies and spinal taps. Due to the nature of these treatments, I had four port-a-cath surgeries which were implanted to help with treatments, although healing from surgery was extremely traumatic within itself.
I experienced many weak moments and breakdowns throughout this experience, but only allowed myself 10 minutes within these episodes to cry, yell or punch a pillow. After these minutes passed, my mother helped me to find my strength once again, and to remind myself of all of the things that I did have and not to focus on what I didn’t. They were moments of gratitude followed by positivity and of reminding myself to take it one day at a time. This is what kept me going each day.
At that time in my life, my future would flash before my eyes on a daily basis. Questions about prom, graduation, marriage and a family were always present. I have reached most of these goals but having a family was always in question, due to my doctors explaining to me when I was fourteen that it may not be possible. Due to the trauma from this time in my life, I’ve struggled with anxiety, PTSD, and I still continue therapy to overcome. Now, at the age of 28, I’m in a much better place in my life and happy to share that I’m engaged and pregnant with my first miracle baby! I’ve pursued a career in cosmetology and continue to work as a model and strive to go further in these areas. I’d love to volunteer my services and provide haircuts to patients going through treatments, and makeovers/spa days to brighten up the spirits of those going through this kind of life changing diagnosis.
I choose to work and volunteer my time with Teen Cancer America because they are dedicated to reconfigure our medical system and to finally recognize teens in their own class. During my treatments, there were no differences between pediatric patients and teens or adults and teens. We were just placed wherever they decided we should go. This created isolation and communication barriers among other barriers for maturing young minds. Teen Cancer America strives to make a difference worldwide connecting teens and young adults in order to create a sense of belonging and family. I’m proud to be a part of this organization and I cannot wait to see how many lives can be affected by this positive change. We’ve still got work to do, but teamwork makes the dream work!