12:12 2016 Meet Hannah


December 9, 2016

Sharing an essay written by Hannah today.  Hannah is a 1 Million 4 Anna Scholarship recipient, and she has given us permission to share her essay answer to the question on our scholarship application: 
What do you feel is important for us to know about your battle with Ewing’s sarcoma and its influence on your life?

“I survived.  These seem like two small, simple words in comparison to the words I’d grown accustomed to saying by the time I was eight.  It all began when what started out as a persistent fever and loss of breath turned out to be, not pneumonia, but a 12 cm tumor growing inside the 9th rib on my left side.  In September of 2005, I heard the words “Ewing’s Sarcoma” for the first time. Little did I know that would not be the only difficult terminology heading my way in the coming years.  It would soon be followed by the word “chemotherapy”. My newly discovered Ewing’s would lead me to complete 14 rounds of Doxorubicin, Vincristine Cyclophosphamide, Etoposide, and Ifosfamide at Children’s Hospital in Omaha.
At a routine six-month scan, I acquired a new challenging vocabulary word: “relapse”.  A new tumor was found in the same location as my previous one. Although it was smaller than my first tumor, this new tumor presented a different set of problems.  I had been given my maximum doses of many of the chemo treatments already, and the location of the tumor was near my heart, posing a challenge to radiologists.  My family turned to the oncology and radiology experts at the Mayo Clinic for a protocol of what to do. As a nine-year old, I spent six weeks at Mayo Clinic receiving radiation treatments and adding Temodar and Irinotecan to my growing list of hard to pronounce chemotherapies.  Later that year, in November 2008, I was once again in remission and I remain in remission today.
There are two more words that I truly learned the meaning of throughout my battle with cancer:  loss and hope.  Of course, there was losing my hair, but that doesn’t even matter compared to some of the other losses caused by this disease. 
Along my journey I was blessed to meet many other children my age who were also undergoing treatments.  These kids ended up becoming my pastime playmates and some of my very best friends.  While some of their stories sound a lot like mine, too many of their stories don’t.  I may have survived cancer but I have lost many friends throughout the years to the disease. 
I first met Sydnee at the end of my first treatment.  We were lucky enough to go on a Circle of Friends trip to Wisconsin together, and the bond was forged forever.  We both went to Camp CoHoLo, a cancer camp, both dreamed of long hair, playing Webkins, and all the things little girls think about.  Then relapse happened for both of us. We went to two separate hospitals seeking treatments out of state, but kept in touch.  The next year we returned to camp, but our experience was very different. While I was weak but able bodied, she was so weak that she spent most of camp in a wheelchair with me pushing her around all day.  She did what she could that year.  I didn’t know it would be her final camp.  She had a stem cell transplant and despite all medical help and her own ferocious strength, she never fully recovered. 
I remember hearing the news.  I was sitting at the kitchen table finishing my dinner before babysitting. That’s when my Mom told me. I didn’t believe her. I didn’t even cry. It didn’t seem real.  It was my first real experience with loss and though there were more to come, losing Sydnee is my most painful, and memorable.
Many would think it’s strange that this brings me to my second word, hope.  Sydnee’s life, although short, was filled with love.  She had the biggest heart and the strongest faith.  She had a kind of positivity that I admire, and she smiled, even in her darkest days.  Her loss reminded me that life is fragile and inspired me to do something to help other children survive this ugly disease that touched our lives in different ways yet brought us together.  I was the miracle relapse survivor, but there were no miracles for Sydnee, she was the miracle.
In honor of her and the countless other friends I‘ve lost, I will return to cancer camp again this summer, this time as a counselor.  As a survivor, I want to inspire my campers that they can make it too, spreading the hope that cancer can be overcome.  I want to share the joy of simple friendship with others who know what we have gone through, the joy I shared with Sydnee.
Since the day I heard the word cancer for the first time, I’ve grown my vocabulary immensely.  I’ve learned the complicated names of chemotherapies, been through relapse and radiation, and experienced great loss. Despite the dreary parts, the one thing I wouldn’t give up for the world is something a dear friend and angel taught me.  Even through the saddest and scariest times there is hope that flows through people in life that truly care.  I aspire to become a physician to make a difference for children like Sydnee.  I think she would approve.”

Thank you for considering a donation to 1 Million 4 Anna for research for Ewing sarcoma, average age of diagnosis: 15.   https://www.1million4anna.org/donate-1212
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