An Open Letter to Leukemia

An Open Letter to Leukemia

Losing is not an option.

Dear Leukemia,
I'd be lying if I said it was nice to meet you a month ago. You couldn't have came at a worse time. I was having fun at college with my friends, teammates, and my boyfriend. From my understanding, all sickness from the past couple months were build onto you, leukemia.

Of course, like the many unlucky souls you encounter, there hasn't been a day where I don't ask myself "Why me?" I don't mean to sound selfish but out of over seven billion people in this world, you decided to choose to enter my life at such a prime time, my sophomore year of college where I finally started dating the boy that I fell in love with and playing the sport that I love. Why me?

It seems like a long ago, but I don't remember most of my first hospital stay. Did I ever mention that I've never had to go to the hospital til you? My parents remind me every day how thankful they are that I am alive, breathing on my own, and able to move around a little bit. Every time they tell me how thankful they are that I am where I am today, it brings tears to my eyes because I want to be in a better place than where I am now. They remind me of their nightmares which was really a reality of the four days I was laying in the ICU, unable to speak to them, unconscious, and in a medically induced coma. Every time my dad tells me the story, he freezes up and can't continue. My mom tries to not repeat the story and relive the nightmare of where she almost lost her only daughter.

From the the little over three week hospital stay of where I lost over 30 pounds and probably had a hundred visitors, I only remember bits and pieces and the last couple of days. I remember my parents giving up sleep to be by my side a couple minutes longer even though they had work in a couple of hours. I remember my mom having to leave my room because she was trying to hide that she was crying. Little did she know how much I wanted to chase after her and bring her tissues but I couldn't move much more than my arms. I remember my teammates and my coach visiting me in the hospital bed where I could barely get up before they head to a tournament that I so wish could be playing in as well. I remember sending broth, jello, and water back for almost two weeks because I was only allowed to eat liquids. I remember my friend's mom giving up her time to spend at her own home, in her own bed with her husband and kids just to be at the hospital at night with me so I won't be alone. I remember my boyfriend sacrificing his weekends to stay with me even though he'd seen the worst of me in the hospital. And I remember the first time I untied my hair where a handful of my hair fell out and I wanted to believe it was because I hadn't brushed it but I knew inside it was because of the chemotherapy.

Leukemia, you have stolen enough from me. I have spent a lot of time crying since you came into my life and to be completely honest, I probably won't stop crying about you for a while. But I also want you to know that you have brought my family closer and stronger. My mom and I have shared countless amount of stories while I was in the hospital and I hope to share dozens more throughout the rest of the chemotherapy I have left. You brought my family closer to God. As much as I may question why all this happened, I also believe he has a bigger and better plan for me. Although I lost most of my eye sight to you, leukemia, Jesus did once heal a blind man so I believe he will heal me too. You have shown me how many people truly care about me with all the support.

Leukemia, you messed with the wrong girl because I'm not losing this fight. I'm gonna win this fight and go running every Sunday morning like I used to with my dad. I can't wait to go shopping again on Saturdays with my mom, even though we may only buy one or two things at the end of the day, we always had such a great time. I can't wait to go back to school and finish my degree and become the physical therapist I desired to be. And I can't wait to go back on the golf course healthier than ever, making more birdies than before.

I don't like losing, and I definitely won't lose to you, leukemia.

Cover Image Credit: Quotesgram

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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4 Best Ways To Deal With The Ear Infection Pain Caused By Strep Throat

The pain will make you cry, I promise.


I have recently, like one day ago, gotten diagnosed with strep throat. Which you would think would mean that my throat would be killing me, right? But no, my friends, it is my ears that are killing me.

Apparently, due to the sinuses built up, your ears hurt a ridiculous amount. No seriously, this is the worst pain I have ever experienced in my life. I mean like crying as if you're a baby and all you can think about is getting the pain to stop. Also, forget sleep, that won't happen if you're in pain.

Well, these are a few of the things that helped me while I was in the middle of this insane period of just wanting it all to end.

1. Sit up in bed. 

Duncan Shaffer

When you are in bed trying to sleep and your right ear, the traitor, decides to act up, it's time to sit up.

I don't know if it's because shit drains or what. Frankly, when you're in so much pain you're considering taking another pain pill, you won't either. Why it works doesn't matter. Sit up as straight as you can and breathe. Slouching won't work - you have to be sitting up straight.

2. Stretch your neck. 

Tanja Heffner

This is just like number one in which I don't know why it works or how it makes things feel better, but it's a miracle worker. I went from crying in pain to being able to finally sleep thanks to this trick. It's the best thing I can think of giving you for almost instant relief.

It won't be the fastest thing ever and it will cause you some discomfort, but the end result is the light at the end of a tunnel. It's how I managed to get an hour of sleep because somehow it was finally better.

3. Wash your hands. 


Strep throat is one of the most contagious diseases ever. Okay, I'll stop being dramatic for a second. It's probably not, but it is super easy to catch and super annoying to deal with.

Wash your hands and make sure to not touch anything someone else will, or he or she may catch it. Or even worse, you get better only to get sick again because someone else didn't clean the surfaces touched while sick.

4. Go to the clinic. 


Seriously, it's on campus and super easy to use. I got to see a medical professional on the same day I walked in. The process was super easy, and I managed to get everything I needed taken care of.

I signed a few forms and got to see a very nice doctor who also told me about many of the other things UCF Health Services offers. She prescribed me some pills I had to take and it was all over in a matter of minutes. I even picked up the prescription downstairs without giving them my name!

I hope this helps anyone who is in pain and desperately needs some relief. Strep throat is the worst and I feel bad for anyone caught in the middle of it. I am with you. Hopefully, our pain eases soon.

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