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Terrified of the Unknown: Nick’s Story

My story began in January of 2006. I was living a normal life up until this point. I was a 7th grader playing on my school’s basketball team, playing video games and hanging out with my siblings and friends. In the week or two leading up to a diagnosis, I had developed extremely swollen glands on my neck. My parents and I were amazed at how big my neck looked. It was evident that something was wrong, but we didn’t think it’d be anything serious. After days of no progress, I finally went in to see my family doctor. She checked out my neck and hypothesized that it might be mono. The next day the doctor asked me to come back in because the swelling had not gotten any better, and after the appointment I was sent to have blood work taken.

I remember what I was doing when we received the phone call. I was lying in my bed at around 7:30 pm and the phone rang. When my mom got off she came into my room and told me that I needed to pack a bag and that they wanted me to come in to the hospital just to run some tests overnight. I wanted none of it. I was so disappointed that I would not get to finish watching the game and not get to sleep in my own bed.

When I arrived and put my bags down, I was taken to go have a chest x-ray taken. After that I don’t quite know where the time went, but it was then after midnight and my parents were taken out of the room to speak with the doctor who would become someone I would get to know very well over the next three-and-a-half years. This was the first time that I had become scared. I was terrified of the unknown. They were probably gone for 45 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. Then, finally, the doctor came back in along with my parents and broke the news to me that I had ALL leukemia. My chest x-ray had revealed a mass of cells in my chest about the size of my fist. My new doctor also told me that I would be undergoing three-and-a-half years of chemotherapy along with a small amount of cranial radiation.

I was in the hospital for four weeks after this, and the thing I remember the most is how weak I became. The medications made me fatigued to the point where I did not want to get out of the hospital bed. My parents tried to get me up and walking, but it was difficult, and I was stubborn. One point that sticks in my mind is the first time I came home and had so much difficulty making it up the stairs that I needed assistance from my parents.

It was a long and bumpy road with many pit stops along the way, but I made it through the three-and-a-half years, and am now over four years off of meds. During and after my treatment I had always worked to raise money for my pediatric oncology clinic to buy toys, games, and other things. I, as well as a team of family and friends, would compete in triathlons to raise the money. I always knew I wanted to help and give back.

This past summer I worked as an intern at both the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the Cancer Support Community. During my treatment, I had no knowledge of the Cancer Support Community. If I had, I honestly am not sure if I would have attended, but I can see now why so many people value it and find it beneficial. This organization has a meaningful mission and is dedicated to fulfilling it. It is surrounded by a wonderful staff whose creativity drives its success. I am proud to say I have worked with them, and I will always be sure to recommend their services to anyone I meet in the future.