Any student setting their sights on a college degree will face challenges, but none more than students struggling to overcome a life threatening disease. That’s why PCRF is committed to improving the quality of life for those affected by pediatric cancer by offering annual scholarship awards to cancer warriors and survivors. We’d like you to meet another one of our 2017 PCRF Scholarship Awardees. We’re so incredibly inspired by Peter’s fortitude to overcome the most difficult obstacle any child should face. Peter remained positive despite being given the worst possible news.
“Am I going to die?”
No parent ever wants to hear that question from their child. I asked my parents that questions on January 4, 2012. I laid in a dimly lit hospital room, nauseous. Inside my head I was screaming, throwing chairs at the wall. The blood drained from my mom’s face, and my dad was frozen in shock. That was the first time I saw my dad cry. Everything in the room seemed suspended in terror.
The most formative event in my life to date has been my leukemia diagnosis. I was a thirteen year old faced with the harsh reality that my high school experience would vary greatly from that of a typical teenager. But I couldn’t look that far ahead. My doctors said I couldn’t play sports. I couldn’t be on the eighth grade football team, I couldn’t complete my 3rd black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and I would never play on the varsity middle school volleyball team. My friends couldn’t come over. As a seventh grader with daily chemotherapy treatments lined up for the next four years, I focused solely on the impacts my disease would have on me. I saw a future full of doctors, needles and nausea, and couldn’t help but focus on myself.
From day one, I was considered a high risk cancer patient because of my age. I hit my first bump in the road early on. My blood cell count was so low at diagnosis. I required 15 blood and platelet transfusions in the first 24 hours of treatment. Unfortunately, this coincided with a serious platelet shortage at my hospital. My parents were extremely concerned and told their friends at church about the shortage. Within a week, thanks to my local parish and the Knights of Columbus, the UCLA Hospital had such an overflow of blood and platelet donation that they had to institute a reservation system.
Two months into chemotherapy, I faced an even more fatal obstacle: necrotizing pancreatitis. My pancreas was killing itself. When I learned that this new disease, a very rare side effect of my treatment, was fatal, I did not bother to burden my parents with that terrifying question again. My doctors said they had done “all they could do”, and I almost lost hope. But after 10 days without food and water by mouth, my pancreas miraculously started to stabilize. Bump after bump, I was determined to make cancer a part of my past; an event that would help shape my character and launch me into adulthood.
The best thing anyone can do in life is use their experience or knowledge to help others.
Once I was able, I sought to discover ways I could use my experience to help others; I started working at the parish blood drive. I used my blood shortage story to show the importance of blood donation. Also, I started volunteering at my hospital alongside the nurses who treated me, with a special empathy for the young patients. Now, I seek out young people who have been recently diagnosed with cancer to offer some consolation from someone who was once in their shoes. My experiences have given me knowledge of a struggle shared by many, but more importantly, they have given me a wisdom in how to use my knowledge. I want to be a positive for in my community, wherever that may be, to console those in need; to share my hope.
You have the power to help kids, like Peter, live a healthy life and use his experience to help others. Help us continue our fight to find a cure.