My name is Grace Davis. I’m 15 years old, and I’m a ballerina, Junior Zoo Keeper at Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, actress, singer, and I am a childhood leukemia survivor.
When I was five years old, my parents noticed that I was getting a lot more bruises and nose bleeds than usual (even living in New Mexico at the time). My abdomen was really swollen and I was taking frequent naps, which was also alarming to my parents. They took me to an urgent care location near my house where the doctors said that I was fine.
Thankfully, my parents were skeptical and wanted a second opinion. We went to my pediatrician for me to get checked out. She told my parents that I needed to go to the hospital immediately. When we got there, the doctors performed various tests until they decided to take a look into my bone marrow, which gave them a diagnosis.
On October 19, 2010, the doctors pulled my parents out of my room to inform them that I had acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). I began chemotherapy that would last for next two and a half years. I underwent a surgery to give me a port catheter that would assist with frequent blood draws. I took hundreds of pills and had many transfusions and bone marrow biopsies.
During Delayed Intensification, a phase of chemotherapy, I had extreme leg pain that kept me from walking. As a kindergartner through second-grader going through chemo, I didn’t fully understand what was going on. I missed my friends and my school. I missed my little brother and grandparents. It was painful. Both physically and mentally. I still struggle with medical PTSD and an ever-lasting anxiety disorder. I have neuropathy in my fingers. I have a decreased processing speed.
Though many would look at these experiences and feel hopeless, I have never lost faith. I have always tried to cling to the brighter parts of life in times of complete darkness. Cancer has given me gifts that I never would have expected: I was The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s (LLS) Girl of the Year in 2014 in New Mexico. I got to meet so many amazing people and help spread awareness about childhood leukemia through outreach and events. I gained my skill of public speaking through LLS in that I frequently gave speeches for them!
I want to be an exotic animal veterinarian. After all I’ve been through, most people would never have thought my career would be in medicine, but I am passionate about helping people and animals alike. I have achieved so many things through ballet and the performing arts that I thought were impossible.
Through cancer, I know my strength, tenacity, and the power of my mind. I have connected with so many other amazing kids who have gone through medical challenges. My nurses and doctors who helped me through some of my hardest times are very near and dear to my heart to this day. I know that I will never be the same as other people my age. But through my journey of recovery, I have learned that I wouldn’t want to fit in. And if there’s one piece of advice I have for all of you reading, it is that sometimes major challenges will come in your life, but how you handle those hard times will greatly determine how you will carry on your life in brighter times. Always have hope.
Dance photo credit: @vuttiphotography