At nine years old, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). A cancer diagnosis at any age is life changing, but I remember being so confused by everything going on around me. This was so new and shocking for me and my family.
The doctors were there to answer any medical questions we had, but the nurses were there for us in a different way. They took the time to help us adjust day by day, and helped me prepare for what the “new normal” was going to look like.
When I was first diagnosed, I spent four weeks in the hospital. During that time, my nurses became like family to me. From painting each other's nails, to helping me track down stuff to make root beer floats in the middle of the night because I was hungry from the steroids, my nurses were simply the best. It did not take me long to realize I wanted to be a nurse and help people battling cancer when I grew up.
As an impatient 9-year-old, I wanted to get started helping right away. A social worker at the hospital told my family and I about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). I jumped right in and got my whole school involved in one of their fundraising campaigns at the time, Pennies for Patients, and also became an honoree for Team In Training. Years later, my best friend and I ran the Flying Pig Half Marathon with Team In Training!
As I got older, I was able to go to other local schools and share my story with students who were fundraising for LLS. In 2005, I got involved with LLS’s Man & Women of the Year event in Dayton, OH and was named “Girl of the Year”.
In 2018, I was thrilled when I was asked to be part the Patient Services Board for LLS’s Tri-State Chapter. But my favorite LLS event is Light The Night. I still try to volunteer at this event every year. It is such a moving and beautiful way to honor my caregivers, friends that I made along the way, and friends who lost their battle with cancer way too soon in life.
As a young adult, I knew I still wanted to be a nurse. Although nursing school was challenging, after I graduated I was so ready to begin my career. I was lucky enough to land my dream job right out of school, as a nurse on a pediatric cancer and blood disease unit!
At first it was hard for me to make those connections with patients. As any new nurse you have to get your bearings first, but I knew I was where I was supposed to be. Seven years later, I'm still working on the same unit and I love what I do.
Recently, a patient's dad told me that their whole family knows who I am because I shared my story with them when their kiddo was first diagnosed, and it gave them so much hope. This instantly made me think of those nurses that my family still talks about and remembers so fondly. As a healthcare provider, survivor, and volunteer I am so grateful to be where I am today.