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Finally, cancer-free

On Feb. 22, 2011, at 7 years old, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. ALL is cancer of the blood. My mom thought I had the flu so she took me to the doctor and after a few days of not getting better, she took me back to get rechecked. My doctor took one look at me and said to my mom, "He doesn't look good; you need to take him to St. Charles to have some blood work done." My mom took me there and they took some blood from me (I hate needles), and, when the blood work came back, Igor the physician assistant came over to talk to my mom and he told her that she couldn't take me home and that we needed to get over to Stony Brook University Hospital. They took me by ambulance and when we got there they did some blood work and hooked me up to some machines. They told my mom that they could tell just by looking at my blood on the slides under the microscope that they were looking at leukemia.

My treatment with cancer began on Feb. 22, 2011, after the doctors did a bone marrow aspiration and told me and my mom that I really did have cancer. I had to get a Mediport put inside my chest next to my heart so that I could get chemotherapy. I was so scared, but there was a boy named Jordan Thomas there. He was the first kid that I met that had cancer. He didn't have ALL, he had bone cancer. He was a few doors down from my room and he came down to visit me and talked to me and calmed me down. He was there because he had relapsed. In the beginning the doctors give you high doses of chemo to get you into remission. I went into remission within three weeks and then I was able to go home.

I lost a lot of friends from school during my treatment, I guess because they really didn't understand my cancer, or maybe because I couldn't play with them because I had to go back and forth to the hospital every two weeks for blood work and treatments. I missed a lot of school. I made some really good friends at the cancer center, though, and we became like family. Besides Jordan, I met Liam, Julia, and Jesse around the time that I got sick, and then I met some more friends along the way as the years passed by.

My mom was told that it would take 3 1/2 years for me to get better. I had to learn to swallow pills at 7 years old so that I could take my chemo and steroids at home, and the times when I would have to get a push of chemo into my port, I would have to go to the cancer center for treatment.

I also had to get spinal taps every 12 weeks. (I think I've had about 14 spinal taps in 3 1/2 years) which meant that I would have to be put out with anesthesia. I hated this part the most. The doctor would take spinal fluid out of my spine to test it to make sure that my cancer was still gone. When I had the spinal taps done, I would have to get an intrathecal infusion, and they would put methotrexate chemo into my spinal column, and then the nurse would turn me upside down for an hour so that the chemo could run down my spinal column and surround my brain, because the cancer likes to hide in the central nervous system.

While going through treatment, I knew all the names of my medications and the dosages that I had to take. Some months I could take up to 165 pills.

One day I was sitting in the cancer center with my mom -- it was probably about six months that I was on chemo -- and my mom was rubbing the back of my head and my hair started coming out in her hand. It was really hard going to school with no hair. I wore a baseball hat at first, but then one day I took it off and some older kid asked me what happened to my hair and I just said, "I have cancer," and then I was OK with my bald head.

I have had to grow up quickly. I felt like I didn't have a childhood because I was sick or neutropenic (low on white blood cells) and in and out of the hospital. I couldn't play sports because I had a Mediport in my chest and had to be careful. Besides making some really great friends, I went to Disney World on my Make-a-Wish trip. I have also been to Camp Adventure (this is a free camp for kids with cancer on Shelter Island) the past two years and this will be my third year going. The saddest part of having cancer was watching my mom cry because she couldn't help me and losing my friends Julia and Jordan to cancer, and my friend Jesse relapsed in January 2014.

I am happy to say that I have finished 3 1/2 years of treatment and I am in remission. I took my last chemo pill on April 28, 2014. On April 28, 2015 it was one year that I've "CANCER FREE." So if you are a kid like me who is fighting cancer, stay strong and be brave.

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