Think about it:
Back in the day, or even as little as 10 years ago, the main thing you focused on when you had cancer was just to beat it… Not about the quality of your life after treatment. With advances in technology, we now have higher survival rates for many types of cancer. With the raise in survival rates, we are able to see and study survivors, and study the side effects of many of these treatments, and the impact they have on quality of life after cancer. At City of Hope their Survivorship Program does just that.
When I was just 14 years old, the life I once lived went flying out the window. Just days after Christmas 2005 I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of blood cancer, called AML. (Acute myeloid leukemia) and it had quickly spread and taken over 97% of my bone marrow. I immediately began treatment, and became a full time resident of City of Hope. For the next year I underwent chemotherapy, full body radiation, and eventually received my 1st unrelated donor bone marrow transplant. After an intense battle with graft vs. host disease (GVHD) I was finally on the mend and had a second chance at life.
I was so excited to get back to the old me and to doing all the things I loved, all the things I missed out on. Before my diagnosis, I was a varsity cheerleader, pageant queen, and all around a very active person. So, when I was out of the hospital, I wanted to hit the ground running, and get back to “normal”. I soon learned it would not be so easy.
I returned to school, or well, I tried. Classes I was once ahead of the game in, I was now falling way behind. I would sit in class and feel my brain go numb, like it stalled, and wouldn’t start again. Trying to keep up with the classrooms pace, made me frustrated, and feeling so stupid, that I would often run out the door crying. Not understanding why I couldn’t think, or comprehend a simple paragraph. This eventually led to me failing almost every subject. I could not keep up. These kinds of problems started to not only affect me in school, but in many areas of my life. Before my transplant they told me that neurological damage from radiation was a possibility, as well as “chemo brain”, but I never expected it to be so real and difficult. I also wanted to get back into cheerleading and gymnastics, but with all of my treatments, and high steroid use to treat GVHD I developed avascular necrosis. My knees were destroyed. I later underwent core drilling surgery to try and save them.
I learned that life after cancer is going to be a lot different then I expected.
Fast forward 2 years, and I find out that my Leukemia had returned, and that I would be starting treatment all over again.
I received my second transplant, but about a year later, I started experiencing many different kinds of problems. Things that seemed like Lupus, or scleroderma. Weird side effects that after months of tests, learned I have a form of chronic GVHD. One that will have effects that will last forever, and impact my life every day.
Now, almost 11 year’s later, and 7 years since my 2nd bone marrow transplant. I am still in treatment for all of these side effects, along with many more. The toxic chemicals it takes to kill this disease also kills many good things and effects all of your organs. Especially your heart and liver. Not to mention the difficulties of living with a compromised immune system for the rest of your life.
At City of Hope, I have not only had the best care during cancer, but their continued care for patients is amazing. They are making groundbreaking moves in studying the effects of traditional treatment, and how to care for survivors, and improve their quality of life, because the fight is not over when the cancer is gone. You are not magically better. Physical, and emotional side effects like PTSD can last a lifetime.
I am asking you to donate to City of Hope, and Dr. Saro Armenian’s studies, to help further research, treat survivors, and improve their quality of life.
****All the funds I raise will go directly to City of Hope so they can continue their amazing work in research, treatment and education. And you can trust they’ll spend the dollars wisely – they’ve been awarded the highest rating of 4 stars by Charity Navigator, America’s premier charity watchdog group.
Can’t donate right now? Then help me reach my goal by sharing this page on Facebook and Twitter. Or, send an email to friends you think might be interested in contributing and include a link to my page. Every little bit goes a long way!