The story of me with cancer begins in 1996 when I was only five years old. My parents noticed I was more tired than usual and always looking to take a rest so they brought me into the doctor. After a series of tests it was discovered that I had acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). From the beginning, I always just took the treatment in stride as well as showing an interest in what was remotely going on from a science point of view. Even though I had in interest in what was happening, I did not fully understand what I was going through but I knew I was not healthy and always looked at it as, “If I want to survive, this is what I have to do.” Other than this I do not remember much about going through cancer treatment. One reason was because I was so young and two because this was just the beginning.
Right before my two-year remission check point, I went in for a normal check up where my doctor felt my spleen was enlarged. After a bone marrow aspiration, it was confirmed that my leukemia came back. This time my family decided not to go with the chemotherapy treatment but with a “Go Big or Go Home Approach” and receive a bone marrow transplant.
On August 6th, 1999 I received my new bone marrow. For about a month everything was going well and then early September I caught the adenovirus. The virus attacked my urinary system and at that time there was no antiviral medication to treat the adenovirus. Most kids who caught this did not make it and I was almost one of those kids. For whatever reason, I made it out after four consecutive months of being in the hospital. There was still a long road of recovery ahead of me. I put on a lot of weight from the medication and lost basically all of my endurance. It did not help that I hated physical therapy, I felt completely exhausted after just a few minutes of exercise. To help this situation out and the best advice
I can give to anyone else going through the same thing is to find something you like. I am a huge baseball fan so my physical therapy became baseball lessons. It never seemed like physical therapy but only practice on improving my baseball ability. It still took a while to get back to where I wanted to be and thinking about it now, it probably took until I was in 8th grade of freshmen year of high school. Unfortunately I will have another set back.
Due to the virus I caught during my bone marrow transplant, (or at least that’s the doctors best guess) my kidneys took a hard hit and I was heading for kidney failure. My kidneys looked exactly like polycystic kidney disease (PKD) even though that is not what it was however they took the same path as PKD. My junior year of high school, my nephrologist told my family and me that I would eventually need a kidney transplant. Four years later in 2012, my uncle donated his kidney to me. This time the transplant went without any glitches and we were both out of the hospital in less than three days.
After all of this, I am doing well. I will graduate from Western Michigan University in May of 2015 with a degree in secondary education in biology. I also plan on getting a Masters in Marine Biology. SurvivorVision made my educational career a lot easier. I am sure it is easy to imagine the medical bills that come with my history as well as the cost of science books at a university. SurvivorVision allows students like me to not have to worry about paying for expensive books. Just because you are cancer free, does not mean the endless doctor visits are over.
A big reason why I am doing so well is because I take my survivorship care extremely serious. It all goes back to what I said at the beginning, “if I want to survive, this is what I have to do.” I never get mad at all the doctors visits just maybe a little frustrated but it is better than the alternative. You have to keep doing the little things to help yourself out and realize there are people and organizations like SurvivorVision that are there to help.