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On September 18th, 2009, I heard the words no parent should ever have to hear, “Your daughter has cancer”.
My daughter, Jessica, was 12-years old and just starting grade 7 when she was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). In a moment our world was turned upside down.
She was admitted to The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and began battling her cancer. Jessica’s new routine included chemotherapy, blood tests, procedures and daily physiotherapy. SickKids doctors informed us that Jessica would require five rounds of chemotherapy and would be admitted to the hospital for six months while she received treatment. She was not allowed to leave the hospital due to her severely compromised immune system. She experienced a variety of side-effects including weight loss, lack of appetite and she lost her beautiful long blonde hair. She also had a few frightening moments, dealing with life-threatening nosebleeds and allergic reactions to medications. She lost an entire year of school.
Jessica went into remission from her leukemia after her first round of chemotherapy, but due to the toll her body endured during the first four rounds of treatment, the physicians decided that a fifth round of treatment could potentially be too dangerous. Jessica was released to go home on February 18, 2010 - her 13th birthday.
Children are so resilient. Jessica remained strong during her hospitalization. I stayed with her each night on a couch in her hospital room, and while we shared many tears, we also managed a lot of laughs. Jessica’s father and younger sister, Amy, visited daily and we learned that Amy is a perfect bone marrow match, should a transplant become necessary in the future. What are the odds of that?
Jessica is now 19-years old, approaching a milestone of 7 years post-treatment, and she remains in remission from her cancer. She has resumed her life and is currently in first year university at the University of Toronto studying Paramedicine - a profession she chose because of her experience.
For the past 7-years, our family and friends have walked in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s “Light the Night” walk, and to date “Team Jessie” has raised over $50,000.00 for leukemia research! Our experience has clearly given us a new outlook on life.
About a year after I joined PAREXEL as a CRA, I learned I would be taking on a new study….the indication? AML. Life is good and I have come full circle.
World Cancer Day