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One month before turning 17 I was diagnosed with leukemia. One minute I was acting in my school play, looking at colleges I might want to attend, and planning for the upcoming semi-formal. And quite literally the next minute, I was a cancer patient. It’s astounding how drastically life can change when a doctor utters a few words to you in a dimly lit hospital room one grey December day. All of my plans – not just for the year, but for the rest of my life – came to a screeching halt. Would I recover? When? How will my schoolwork suffer? Will I still see my friends? Will my crush at school ever like me? Will I lose my hair? Will treatment hurt? Will I have scars?
The questions raced through my head too quickly to even articulate while the doctor explained what leukemia was (cancer of the white blood cells), and how they would treat it (months of high-dose chemotherapy, antibodies, and blood and platelet transfusions).
The next weeks moved quickly as my medical team urgently got me started on chemotherapy. I was in ICU at first, and then transferred to the regular pediatric oncology floor, at which point my hair started to slowly appear more and more on my pillow. For a teenage girl, this aspect of treatment was nearly unbearable.
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