Cancer Survivors Day 2020 – Meet Isabella.
“During the beginning of my high school senior year, I began to feel very sick and developed an enlarged lymph node on my hip. After many doctors’ appointments and misdiagnoses, I ended up admitted to St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and was eventually diagnosed with Stage 3 nonhodgkins anaplastic large cell lymphoma, a very aggressive form of cancer. I had no idea how much my life would change.
For a whole year, I received 20 rounds of chemo. After a majority of these treatments I was declared “no evidence of disease”, but I still had to finish the remainder of my treatments. Three weeks after what was supposed to be my last chemo treatment, I had “end of chemo” scans to make sure I was still in remission. Unfortunately, the scans showed my worst fear, and my cancer had returned immediately and was even more aggressive. My doctors worked hard to create a new treatment plan for me. They decided that the plan was for me to receive more intensive chemotherapy inpatient and radiation and get a bone marrow transplant once the disease was under control. For my bone marrow transplant, I had to go to a different hospital in Gainesville, FL for several months while I recovered. My brother, Max, ended up being my donor, and the transplant went successfully with few complications.
Being bald, wearing a mask, and feeling weak and sick became my new normal which was very difficult to stay in a college town with kids my age doing what I was supposed to be doing. It was a hard year for me, being so isolated because of my immune system, but I learned so much about myself and became so much more appreciative of my family. At that time, it was hard to imagine my life as a “survivor” and what that kind of life would look like. When you fight so hard for something, and finally get to that point you were waiting for, it is hard to imagine what is next.
The year after my transplant these thoughts plagued my mind. What do I want for my life now that I get to finally live it? It is ironic and as difficult as a place as it was for me, I strangely missed the hospital and all of the doctors and nurses that took care of me there. I even missed the other patients that I got to know. That is when it clicked, I realized how much of an impact they all had in my life and that I went through all those hard years for a reason. I decided I wanted to go to school to become a pediatric oncology/hematology nurse, and eventually a nurse practitioner. The passion I have for kids going through cancer is unique and I want to spend the rest of my life being that impact in theirs.
I started nursing school at the beginning of the year, and it is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Whenever I feel discouraged, I remember that there is going to be a kid out there one day that is going to need me to be the best nurse that I can be and push on. I am thankful for my cancer journey and my survivor journey as it has led me to where and who I am now and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”