30 DAYS/30 STORIES® 2021
My name is AJ and I am 11yrs old. On 2/9/20, I was diagnosed with T-Cell Leukemia. That was one of the scariest days of my life. I heard the doctor say it and I knew “cancer” was a bad disease but I just couldn't understand why they were saying I had it! Why me? I was only 10 years old. Did this mean I am going to die? So many things kept going through my mind and I didn’t know how to say what I was feeling. I was scared but I didn't want to say it!
I was always so active and had lots of friends. I was on a football team with all of my buddies, I was training to go to Nationals for boxing (hopefully I will box professionally one day) and I was a normal kid in the 4th grade. Almost overnight, this all changed! I thought “all I have is a headache!” Just make my headaches go away, and I will be fine. But it wasn’t that easy!
I was admitted to LVHN straight from the ER and I think I started chemo the next day. Everything was happening so fast, I had blood tests, MRI’s, X-rays and a port placed in my chest. Still, I couldn’t imagine why this was happening! The chemo made me feel sick, I was throwing up and feeling so weak and, eventually, my hair started to fall out. That was hard for me because with my hair falling out, I felt like I wasn't “me” anymore. I felt like everywhere I went, people were staring at me. It was hard! No matter how hard it was, I always had the support of my mom, dad, my sisters and a few friends. My family let me know that my looks may be different, but I was still the same AJ, and together we would get through it. I had lots of friends that didn’t understand what I was going through, and I hated having to explain all of the time. But I had 1 or 2 friends that didn’t expect an explanation…just stood by my side and adjusted to my new life.
I went through a lot, but I logged into school every day. I had a bad reaction to one of my chemo meds (Peg) that made me feel like I couldn’t breathe, I had radiation to my head, and I had to go through physical therapy because one of the meds made me walk funny. I can go on and on about all of the scary stuff, but I don't want to look back anymore because I see such progress in myself. I am now in maintenance, and I feel so much stronger than I did just one year ago. I have learned that being told I have cancer does not mean it’s the end…it just means it’s my new! My life is different in so many ways now, but I am still the same kid! I am still AJ who loves video games, football, boxing and hanging out with my friends.
I am grateful for my mom, my dad, my sisters, all of my teachers who made such a difference in my life, the doctors who take care of me and all of the nurses who act just like moms to me and understand my moody personality. PCFLV has been a big part of helping my mom get through the times I had to stay in the hospital or just setting up events with other moms who can understand her. I have so many people reminding me of my strength that it keeps me going every day! Hopefully one day, kids won’t have to face the challenges that I have to go through because of cancer. But for the kids like me that have no choice, just stay strong and keep fighting!
Thank you for listening to my story.
Written by Angel (AJ)
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Photography by Matthew Cannon