I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia right before my 10th birthday in 1997. I was aware of the severity of my disease, but also still had the innocence of my childhood left to hold onto. I had the best support system including my family, friends, and classmates in 5th grade. My teacher called me frequently and passed around her cell phone so I could talk to each of my classmates during school. I still have the giant Christmas stocking with each of their names from that year. I continued my treatments into middle school with my BFFs and we listened to the Backstreet Boys and collected beanie babies. It was difficult going to school regularly but I tried not to miss a beat. I do remember feeling different and wishing I was more like everyone else, but my Mom always reassured me that I was “ok, alright”. When I wasn’t able to attend school we would drive in the “getaway” car and enjoy the beauty of Long Island.
By January of 2000, I finished my treatments and went back to school full-time in seventh grade. Unfortunately, I relapsed in the summer of 2002, and this time I felt the gravity of the situation by the faces of my parents and doctors. I fought harder and my body endured chemotherapy again, with radiation. And this time, I was not able to attend school for the entire duration of my treatments. I felt isolated and this time as a 16-year-old high school sophomore, I missed out on many experiences.
But I did feel really great on my sweet 16! My parents put together a wonderful day with my closest friends: we took a limo into the city and ate dinner. I remember being so happy to hit that milestone and then graduate with my class, once I finished my treatments again in the fall of ‘04. But those years were hard. Thinking back, I thank God for all the prayers and positivity for me and my family.
Life after cancer took some adjustment. I went back senior year, but I was out of the loop socially. Thankfully, I caught up by college and learned how to navigate life as a 17-year-old two-time cancer survivor with the entire world ahead of me. Today, I’m a thriving and healthy wife and mother. My husband may not have been around back then and only has a snapshot of what my past was like before we met. We have faced our own ups and downs with fertility issues and the pain of miscarriages but made it through stronger together. We’re now the proud parents of an amazing and incredibly happy 8-month baby girl. I cannot wait to continue this journey post-cancer and celebrate my beautiful life each and every day.
By Christine Maglio