Hodgkin lymphoma (HL)
In October 2015, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). After growing up never getting sick, I had cancer. It was incredibly difficult to comprehend at the age of 13 that I was about to endure something most people won’t experience in a lifetime. I went through four rounds of chemotherapy and was in remission in January of 2016. Once you’re in remission, you believe that that’s the end. You’ll have a few check-ups here and there, but in your head, you envision no more cancer. After a routine checkup in July of 2016, I found out on my 14th birthday that I was diagnosed with a relapse of HL.
Not many people hear the word cancer once let alone twice, but here I was. This time was going to be harder than the first, both mentally and physically. I went through fertility surgery in order to possibly have children one day. After, I went through another four rounds of more intense treatment and had a stem cell transplant. I then went through 18 rounds of proton radiation before receiving my Make-A-Wish to attend the Grammy Awards. When I returned, I started 16 rounds of immunosuppressive chemotherapy treatment. While all of this sounds like a lot, which it most definitely was, it changed my life for the better. I learned more than most people ever will, and while I matured far earlier than I wanted, it made me who I am today.
When I was first diagnosed, I wanted nothing more than to never hear the word cancer again because I felt it was the worst part of me. Realistically, I had to learn that was never going to happen. So, instead, I made it the best part of me. I started advocating for childhood cancer through The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). My sister and I began our own version of Light The Night (LTN) at my high school after learning how many people were impacted by cancer within our small community. I ran for Student of the Year in 2018 and ended up winning by raising nearly $70,000. I’ve been a part of three teams since and have raised over half a million dollars total for LLS. This year, my brother is taking over and running for Student of the Year 2023. I have served as a leadership member for the Student of the Year program and have also served as a mentor. LLS has become a family to me and means more to me than I can put into words because of their support through my diagnosis as well as after.
Because of the impact cancer had on my life and my family, it was important to me to access any type of funds possible. I knew there were scholarships out there for kids with cancer and felt it was important to reach out anywhere possible. The medical world can take a huge toll on your life, not only mentally and physically, but financially. I am incredibly fortunate to be able to live the life I do and have the family I have. My parents have worked incredibly hard to provide us with everything we wish to have and more. When I was diagnosed, my family and parents sacrificed a lot to be there for me. I am forever thankful for my family and those who have supported me. Receiving this award not only meant a lot to me but to my family as well. It has lifted a feeling of guilt off of my shoulders after watching the medical bills circle through my house. It gave me a feeling of pride and is making me work even harder in school to prove to myself, my family, and those around me that I am deserving of awards like this one. This award has provided me with a great deal of happiness and the opportunity to keep sharing my story for good. I never imagined receiving an award with this much value, especially with everything going on in this world and my life. It means more to me than most. Cancer can take away a lot from anyone, but it can never take away your feelings of hope, gratefulness, and happiness. The award has only strengthened these feelings for me and teaches me still that you should never take anything for granted. I am forever grateful to LLS for its passion and dedication to survivors and patients everywhere.