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Point Park student battles leukemia

By Nicholas Horwat, Point Park News Service:

Like most college students, she was focused on getting good grades, but she was facing something bigger. One Point Park University student was not only continuing school and maintaining good grades, but also battling acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL).  

This student requested to remain anonymous due to the emotional and physical distress the battle presented to her.

Before being diagnosed, she had suffered from epilepsy and a mild nerve disorder that caused her to go through three previous life-threatening surgeries.  As the cancer spread and got closer to becoming fatal, it was her past surgeries that made her not afraid of death.  

“I was no longer afraid to die. If it was to turn bad I would just deal with it, I had come to terms with death before so many times that this was not a scare,” she said.  

In early September, 2016 a normal check up turned into anything but ordinary when she was diagnosed with ALL, a milder, treatable form of leukemia. ALL effects the blood and bone marrow in a person’s body.  With the right treatment it can be cured quickly, but at the time of her dignoses her family was unable to financially support many of the treatments. The ALL quickly became dangerous and painful.  

“It felt like my muscles were trying to come out of my skin,” she said.

She was able to be put on medications that would slow down the spread of the cancer, but the side effects of the medications and the cancer itself was taking its toll.  

“I struggled with exhaustion, not being able to eat, throwing up a lot,” she said. “It took a lot out of me day after day.”

While she was suffering, her family was taking hits in other areas of their lives. Her father had lost his job. Her mom had to search to find a new job in order to gain a better health insurance plan.  

The cancer was spreading rapidly, it reached her liver, and began to shut down her lungs.  She had trouble breathing often, and would bruise very easily. It got to the point where she found herself deciding to just let the cancer take over her body.  

She completed her first semester, but it was still a mystery if she could survive another. It was late December, and her mother landed a new job with health insurance to cover the cancer treatments. With just two weeks before it would be considered too late, she got her surgery.

She was considered cancer free as of early January of this year.

Throughout the four months she was living with cancer, she rarely missed a class.  She was putting it off to the side as much as she could to continue her education.  However, it was always in the back of her head.  

“It was difficult going to classes while barely being able to breathe or move, but I knew I had to keep my focus on learning and not missing anything,” she said.

One day she hopes to graduate with a masters degree and work in the music industry.

This piece is part of a project on Apocalyptic writing. It will be featured in a print magazine that will be presented at the 8th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium on Friday, April 21, 2017 in the Center for Media Innovation on Point Park University’s campus. 

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