When I was diagnosed with A.L.L., I remember being scared because I didn’t fully understand what was going on. I remember seeing my parents and other family members upset and I knew something was wrong just from their reactions. That first hospital stay is almost a complete blur, though I know I was there for a few weeks at least. After that initial stay, I had weekly clinic visits and various inpatient treatments for the next 3 years. My treatment was cut short toward the end because I contracted Salmonella, due to my immune system being compromised. At the time, the doctors and my parents agreed that the infection needed to be controlled before it killed me, which it came very close to doing.
The doctors and nurses were amazing but I think the person who stood out the most was a phlebotomist, named Deb. I have always hated having blood work done because I don’t have the best veins, but Deb seemed to know where they were hiding and got it with one stick every single time. To this day no one else has been able to do that.
I think I was too young to really “deal” with my diagnosis. My parents made sure that I was still able to be a normal kid on the days I was feeling well and didn’t have to go to Hasbro. I was still able to continue swimming for my team, stayed active in Girl Scouts, go to school, and hang out with my friends. I became a member of the teen group around the age of 12 and that was incredibly helpful. I was able to connect with people my own age and older who had gone through similar experiences and they offered a level of understanding that my other friends just couldn’t.
Now, I am a college graduate with a BS is Exercise Science and Fitness Leadership, working full time, and trying to be a successful adult. Over the years, I have struggled with different psychological effects that may or may not be directly related to my treatments, but with counseling and medication they are generally under control. In 2012, my cousin, was also diagnosed with A.L.L., so I have been thankful to be able to help my extended family through that. It definitely has not been easy reliving everything again but now we share an unbreakable and unexplainable bond.