Taking the First Step

Today, I’m sharing a story from Jackie Fiore, a young woman who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) when she was a student at Boston College. Source: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society newsletter.

Being in my third year of college, most people would have thought that I was simply a “run down college student”. During my first semester back at school after a fun filled summer, I was having trouble getting out of bed, stopped attending many of my classes and was not taking part in the many fun college activities that I once had. I had thought I was just in somewhat of a mental depression, so I did not bother telling my parents how terrible I was really feeling. My mother’s instincts could sense that something was seriously wrong, though, so over Christmas break she insisted that I see my doctor.

A few days after being back at college, I received a phone call from my mother telling me that my doctor had called with the results of my blood tests and he explained that my white blood cell count was low. Unfortunately, it wasn’t clear yet that there was something wrong with me, so it took several months, blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy before I would find out that I had AML.

In just a few days I was at the hospital receiving high doses of chemotherapy. I was so scared, but there was no doubt in my mind that I wasn’t going to fight off this disease. It was so hard for me to go through such a long, harsh journey at the young age of 21. If it weren’t for the support of my family and friends, I would have had a very rough time making it through. Another very hard part for me was the loss of my hair. Physically, I felt very vulnerable. I fought my mother on the idea of a wig, but when I found the right one and took my mom’s advice, emotionally, it saved me. I could walk out of my house and not feel like a “cancer patient”.

I have now been in remission for four years and one month, and I feel wonderful! I recently moved into my own apartment with two friends that is a quick walk from the beach, and I am receiving my Masters in Elementary and Special Education. I am also giving back as much as I can. I found out about Team In Training in January of 2009 when I was in Disney World and saw Team In Training everywhere at my hotel and during their race through all the parks. As soon as I got back from my trip, I looked up information about it and soon registered for the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon. Since then I have become even more involved with LLS by walking and fundraising for Light The Night Walk, and I have been mentoring a 22-year-old girl recently diagnosed with cancer as part of the First Connection program.

During my whole experience as a cancer patient, I reminded myself of an inspirational quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. that I hope will be just as helpful to anyone facing a similar situation: Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.

Your support makes a difference. For more information about LLS’s vital work, visit www.LLS.org .

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