My 14 year old niece was diagnosed last December with leukemia (she was 13 then). She is very strong and upbeat and absolutely amazing through all of her grueling treatments. She has made it her mission to educate people about leukemia. Below is a speech that she gave to her class at school (30 people) and then again at a fundraiser (100 people):
I just wanted to thank all of you for your support and all that you have done for me and my family in these past 5 months. It has meant so much to me. All of your support has kept me going and kept me strong.
I thought I would take this time to fill you in a little bit about my type of leukemia, the treatment I've been receiving, and my experience so far.
Did you know that the body is made up of trillions of living cells? Just one of my cells developed wrong….just one. And it changed my entire life. Imagine playing hockey 4 times a week, doing boxing, plus being in school sports. Now imagine your doctor telling you that you have cancer. Seems unbelievable, right?
As most of you know, in December of 2013, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. This is the most common type of childhood cancer. Leukemia is caused by immature white blood cells continuously multiplying and overproducing in the bone marrow. When the doctors discovered my leukemia, it had taken over 84% of my bone marrow.
When I received the news, I couldn't breathe. I thought to myself…this can't be real? Honestly, I half laughed-half cried, because it seemed so unbelievable. Before I even had a chance to think, the doctor told me I would begin chemotherapy in 2 days. Chemotherapy? I had heard of it before, but I had no idea what it was all about, but I knew I would soon find out.
The chemotherapy treatment I'm getting is given in cycles. The cycles are induction, consolidation, interim maintenance, delayed intensification, and maintenance is the final cycle. I know most of you probably have no idea what that means. When I first heard about these cycles it sounded like a foreign language to me too. It will take about two and a half years to complete all these cycles.
During my course of treatment I will be given 10 different kinds of chemotherapy drugs because each drug destroys cells in a different way. Unfortunately many healthy cells are damaged by the chemo which can cause side effects. The side effects I have experienced so far are joint pain, mouth sores, muscle weakness, headaches, nausea, and hair loss. My hair used to be very long and beautiful. I really miss it, but come on, I'm rocking this hairdoo don't you think?
A cycle of chemotherapy includes a rest period to allow the body to build healthy new cells before the next treatment. I can tell you from experience that chemotherapy is not an easy thing to go through. There have been times that chemo has kicked my butt, I'm not going to lie. I've felt pretty weak and tired, sometimes barley able to walk half a block without feeling like I just ran a mile. I've had nausea and a couple of wicked headaches that have landed me in the ER, but I have also have had some good times where I have felt strong, had energy, and have been able to do stuff with my friends.
Never in a million years did I think I would be where I am today. Sometimes when I think about it, my brain still tells me it's a joke. Hearing the words "I have cancer" come out of my mouth doesn't feel right. It doesn't sound right, but I have come to realize that when a difficult time is thrown at you, it is important to stay strong and remain optimistic. When you think about it….I really only have 2 choices. I can either remain optimistic and get through this…. or I can sulk and make the experience harder for myself. So…I have chosen to be optimistic.
I have realized that cancer can just be a word if I let it be.
Of course there are times that I have been scared, but I know that I will come out of this stronger than I ever have and ever would have been.
I will not let this experience break me, because I am stronger than Cancer. I will never give up, because I know in my heart that extraordinary things happen to extraordinary people.