September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. At PCFLV, we are committed to spreading the GOLD all year long. However, in September, we truly make it our mission. 30 Days, 30 Stories celebrates the children we know and love and the brave battles they fight and have fought, with their families by their sides. In celebrating these beautiful children and their stories, we hope to inspire you to join us in our mission to SPREAD THE GOLD in September and all year long!
My name is Megan. I was born on August 16th, 1998. During the late summer and fall of 2007, I had been getting fevers constantly, my body ached, and I was always tired. The doctors always dismissed it as a virus. I had joint pains, but the doctors said that I had Achilles heel and shin splints. In November of 2007, I had to get bloodwork done to check my cholesterol and triglycerides. When the results came back, the doctor called us to tell us that my cholesterol and triglycerides were fine. Then, as Christmas approached, I had visited family members, and family members were visiting me. They were each telling my mother the same things: "She's so pale," "She isn't her normal self," "Are you sure it's just a virus?" Mid-December of 2007, I was at school (4th grade) and felt worse than I had ever felt before. I was cold, sweating, and could barely stay awake. I went to the office to tell the secretary (who doubled as our daily nurse). I had barely gotten into the office when she told me to "go back to class and blow your nose. You'll be fine." Upon my return to the classroom, my teacher was shocked that the secretary had not sent me home, so she sent me to the back of the room to sleep for the rest of the day, as she knew I did not feel at all well. My father picked me up from school that day and took me home. As soon as we got home, he took my temperature; it was 103.7 degrees.
My dad immediately called my mom at work to see what we should do. He had to work that night, so he had to wait for my mom to get home to take me to the doctor's. Once my mom and I arrived at the doctor's, and the doctor suggested that I had a virus, she immediately commented on my lack of color and vigor. The doctor, who was different from the one who had called us about the previous blood results (let's call him Dr. 1), went to go check on the old blood test. He (let's call him Dr. 2) came back to the room whiter than I was, and I didn't even think that was possible. He said to us, "Well, her counts were a little low and we missed it, so I want to send her for more bloodwork." My dad and I, the next day, went to get more bloodwork. On December 21, 2007, Dr. 1 called us and asked if my parents could bring me to the doctor's office that night and if both my parents could be there. Once we got to the doctor's office, he asked to speak to my parents alone. I said to my mother, "Mom, if this is about me, I want to know what's going on." The doctor allowed me to stay in the room while he talked to my parents. I sat on my mom's lap the whole time while the doctor talked about "immediate hospitalization" and having a room ready for me at LVHN Cedar Crest and that what was wrong with me could possibly be "a virus that is suppressing her immune system." He was being careful with what he said around me, as not one mention of the word "cancer" ever came up. My parents and I went straight home, packed some clothes and other belongings, and went to my grandparents' house. My aunt was also there and we explained to them what was going to happen. I was only 9 years old, so I was still unsure about what was going on.
We got to LVHN Cedar Crest, and they brought me up to the Fourth Floor, put an IV in me, and got me set up in room 4B13. An oncologist came into my room and asked to speak with my parents out in the hallway, saying, "I am 99% sure that your daughter has cancer, but we will have to run more tests to find out what kind of cancer it is. I am sure that it is Leukemia, but we have to check if it is the 'good' one or the 'bad' one." Since it was Friday night, they would not be able to perform a spinal tap or bone marrow aspiration until Monday morning. So, Monday morning, Christmas Eve, I woke up super early and had the procedures done at about 8 am. That night, my dad and I were watching WWE Monday Night Raw and my mom was waiting in the hallway for the doctor. Suddenly she announced, "Joe, he's coming." My dad got up from the couch and went into the hallway to join my mom. The doctor came down the hallway, giving the 'thumbs up' to my parents, and they just started hugging each other tightly because I had ALL (instead of AML), the one that if your child has Leukemia, it's the best to have. The doctor told them that my spinal fluid was clean, but my bone marrow came back with 92% cancer cells. I was immediately started on chemotherapy. Later that night, with my mom sitting in bed with me, I asked her, "Mom, am I going to die?" She looked at me and said, "No, sweetie, God is going to take care of you." From then on, my faith never shook.
On January 2, 2008, I received my second bone marrow aspiration and spinal tap. The results were very encouraging; my Leukemia cells went down to 6.5%. My chromosome test results were also promising. The doctor explained that they were 12 & 21, which meant that my Leukemia cells were wimpy, making me standard risk rather than high risk.
On January 10th, my neutrophils began to go up which meant all was working as scheduled and soon I would be released from the hospital. On January 11th, we received my blood results and again it was good news: my neutrophils kept rising and I was able to come home that day and celebrate Christmas at home with my family.
But that was only the beginning. I could not be treated as a 'normal' child because I would be undergoing different phases of chemotherapy for the next 28 months. There were periods where the treatment was intense and I received high dosages of chemotherapy and steroids. Initially, I missed almost 2 months of school. As time progressed, I still missed days and weeks of school. If anyone was sick in my class or if there was a virus going around, I wasn't able to go into school. For one week each month, I was on steroids. Steroids were what my doctors and nurses described as 'yucky.' My taste buds changed and I had major mood swings. I remember I started crying at a restaurant and my mom asked me what was wrong, and I replied through sobs saying "Iâ€¦.don'tâ€¦.know." I lost my hair, and even though I missed my curly, blond locks, I think I wore my wig only twice. I felt comfortable enough around my friends to show off my glossy, bald head. And at carnivals, I had my head painted at the face-painting booths.
Over the course of the entire treatment, I took 3,294 chemo pills. Many of these pills had different side effects, one of which was Avascular Necrosis (the cut off of blood supply to a bone, subsequently causing the deterioration of said bone). I developed this condition in my left ankle and have had surgery on this ankle to remove bone spurs. I wear a brace almost every day for support, and will eventually need to get extensive ankle replacement surgery to replace it.
During this time, I have become part of several organizations in the Lehigh Valley such as PCFLV, which helps and supports children like me that have or had cancer. PCFLV has been very instrumental in helping me and my family to be able to enjoy things in life that normally we would not be able to do. PCFLV has provided me with an academic scholarship, given us tickets for area events, and orchestrated a group outing with many other families every year at Dorney Park. These types of activities are so beneficial to me and my family because it lets us engage in normal activities with other families that have experienced or are experiencing cancer in their children's lives.
On February 27, 2015, I celebrated being five years off chemo and am considered 'cured' from ALL. This experience gave me a new perspective on life and helped me shape my future goals. I now want to become a Pediatric Oncologist because I feel as though I would be able to connect better with children and their families, as my family and I have experienced very similar events in our lives. I want to share my experience with them and give them hope for what is to come.