My name is Jocelyn. I was diagnosed with Precursor-B Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) the day before Thanksgiving in 2011, at the age of 4. I underwent 2 ½ years of intense chemotherapy treatment. I ended that treatment in June of 2014, at 6 ½.
My journey began shortly after I started preschool in September of 2011. My mom was becoming more and more concerned when I had weird bruising, bone pains and constantly came down with colds and fevers. I just never looked well. My pediatrician shared the concern and, after taking one look at me, knew something wasn’t right. After a lengthy exam, blood tests were ordered and the results read right away. Later that same evening my parents received the call that led to my diagnosis and, ultimately, changed my world forever. Something was “abnormal” in my blood and I needed to be taken to the emergency room right away. There, they ran more blood tests and, after many long hours of waiting, the doctor walked my mom into a small room down the hall and said that the results all pointed to leukemia. Since the hospital wasn’t equipped to deal with children’s cancer, they couldn’t be 100% sure so I was finally sent to Johns Hopkins Hospital’s ER by ambulance. I remember being so scared and just not knowing what was happening to me. After many more long hours of waiting and running more and more tests, the results were clear: I had leukemia. Since this type of leukemia is very aggressive, treatment started right away. If any time was lost my parents would surely lose me. I was admitted to Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncology unit that day where I had a series of invasive operating room procedures and intense treatments to get my body into remission.
My treatment lasted for 2 ½ years and consisted of countless, harsh chemotherapy treatments (through my veins, my spine and by mouth.) Treatment was tough on my body and my mind. My immune system was severely depleted and I suffered through many other complications. Due to those complications, there were many trips to the emergency room and more inpatient stays than I want to remember. I've taken medications to free me from every ailment and side effect and I've seen doctors and therapists for everything in between. Emergency room visits, hospital admissions and being poked and prodded were my way of life. The hospital was my home-away-from-home and the doctors and nurses were a second family.
Before leukemia, I was just like any “normal” 4-year old child. I was healthy and was only seen by my doctor for well-child visits and typical colds. I was active, full of energy and loved life. I liked meeting new friends and play was always my number one priority. Barbie’s, beaches, birthday parties, books, Chuck E. Cheese, dress-ups, playdates, playgrounds, princesses, swimming pools were hands-down my absolute favorites. I was even starting to learn to ride my bike. Oh, I can’t forget my new baby sister – I simply adored her and smothered her in hugs and kisses!
During my leukemia treatment, I was forced to miss out on many things so I wasn’t exposed to germs that could cause me to be hospitalized or much, much worse. Even birthday parties and attending school were a danger to my health. I graduated Kindergarten at home with a Home and Hospital tutor. My parents were instructed to avoid large crowds and, because I was so sensitive to treatment, we mainly hung out indoors. If we needed to go anywhere, I always wore a medical-grade mask to prevent me from catching anything. The years during treatment seemed to last forever, but during that time I learned how to be brave, courageous and strong. I learned to speak my mind and I became a fighter.
Today, I’m 10-years old, in the 4th-grade, and will celebrate being off treatment for 4-years, this June. Though I am wiser than my years, to look at me now, you’d never know what I went through then. While I have had many hurdles and challenges to overcome (from undergoing such intense and toxic treatments), I enjoy each and every moment I can get to just try to "be a kid again". Though I struggle to keep up with my friends, I am determined to be just like everyone else and keep bouncing back stronger than ever. Things I couldn’t do before are hands-down the things I love the absolute most. I am taking ballet; have learned how to climb monkey bars and hover-board; love to draw and author my own books; can go to the movies, play with friends and ride roller coasters. I am finally learning to ride my bike now, too. I’m in no hurry though - I’ve got plenty of time for that!
I am resilient. I am strong. I am a survivor!