HI EMMA! THANK YOU FOR SHARING YOUR STORY WITH US!
heath: What kind of cancer do you (or did you) have? How old were you when you were diagnosed and how old are you now? Also, where are you from and what hospital did you have your treatment?
I had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when I was 16 years old. When I was 21, I relapsed with the same cancer and had to have a bone marrow transplant. I am now 22 years old. I am from Mequon, Wisconsin and was treated at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.
HEATH: I ASKED EMMA ABOUT HER BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT...
I had my bone marrow transplant on June 1st 2017. My brother was a perfect match and they were able to take lots of healthy marrow from him. He was put under anesthesia and my doctor used a needle to go through his pelvic bone and take out as much marrow as they needed for my transfusion. After he woke up from anesthesia, he wasn’t in any pain and didn’t even need to spend the night inpatient. After they harvested the marrow, I received the cells a few hours later in a procedure similar to a blood transfusion. I was on lots of monitors and had my vitals checked every 20 minutes to make sure I didn’t have any reactions. The infusion took close to 6 hours (lots of healthy cells) and the marrow officially engrafted about 16 days later!
Harry: What feelings did you have when you were diagnosed with cancer? Were you scared, sad, angry? Did you want to talk to people about how you were feeling or did you want to keep it inside?
When I was first diagnosed with cancer I was scared and sad and didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know how chemo would make me feel or what I was going to look like without hair. I had never met anybody else with cancer but wanted somebody who I could talk to so they could tell me what to expect. One of my best friends knew a girl who had my same cancer when she was much younger and she was able to talk with me and help me through the first few months when everything was so new.
Heath: What was it like to go back to school after you were diagnosed or had treatment (or both)? Did your friends and teachers treat you differently? How did that make you feel?
The first time I went back to school after I was diagnosed I was really nervous. I didn’t know how people would react to me not having hair and having not seen me in several months. When I got to school, everybody rushed over to see me because they were so excited. I was treated the exact same way (maybe a little better even) and I was so happy to be back with friends.
Heath: What does it feel like when you are going through chemo?
When I went through chemo I was sick almost all the time. The chemo medicine makes you throw up, feel sleepy, have bad headaches, and so many other problems. I didn’t feel like myself and a lot of things I enjoyed doing before didn’t make me happy anymore.
Harry: How did your family, friends and community help you through this difficult time?
My family was always with me when I had to spend nights in the hospital or had to go to the clinic for chemo or surgery. My friends would come visit me when I was sick at home and unable to go to school. Even if I wasn’t feeling well, they would come over just to watch a movie and keep me company.
Harry: What is one thing that you would want people to know about having cancer?
Some people may be scared of their friend who has cancer or think they are a different person because of it. That is not true at all! A cancer diagnosis doesn’t make you a different person just because you may have tubes sticking out of your chest, have no hair, or maybe walk or look a little differently. You are still the exact same person!
Both: What are your hobbies and favorite foods and places to go?
I love to go shopping, go to get coffee with friends, and play with my puppy outside at home. My favorite place to go is Hawaii which is where I went for Make A Wish and I hope to go back someday!
BOTH: Why is giving back important to you? Who inspires you?
It is important to me to give back to the community because I know there are patients out there who are not as fortunate as I was while going through chemo. I want them to know they are all loved and cared for and have someone thinking about them.