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Relapse - Take it Day by Day

When Lindsey’s leukemia came back after it had been in remission, she turned to others to help her through the tough times –God, family, friends, hospital staff, and the community as a whole.

Now 29, Lindsey was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 9. The cancer relapsed during her freshman year in high school. Then she relapsed again during college and underwent a hematopoietic cell transplant (also called bone marrow or stem cell transplant). She has been free of cancer ever since.

There will be difficult times during cancer treatment, Lindsey said. But patients and families can find strength while weathering life’s storms.

Patient wearing a hat standing next to doctor in a white coat.

“I got down and had my pity days, but as a whole, I was able to see many blessings from my experiences, that it helped me push through the hard times,” Lindsey said. “Some days you may get news you don’t want. Take it day by day. The next day could be better. Celebrate each improvement, no matter how small it may be. Some people get overwhelmed and wonder how they’re going to make it. There are so many people who want to help you. Somehow the impossible becomes possible and things slowly piece together.”

Family standign in front of wall of ice all wearing matching red jackets.

Her cancer journey taught Lindsey meaningful lessons:

  • Going through difficulties can bring families closer together: “You can’t do it alone. You have to unite as a family. My siblings would be there cheering me up. My parents were with my every step of the way. We made our home wherever we were together. As a family we grew really strong. To this day we’re really tight.”
  • Keeping busy can take your mind off your troubles: “Get out, go on a walk, but don’t sit in your room and sulk. You may want some alone time to absorb things or have days where you feel down. That’s perfectly normal. But try not to lay in bed and sulk in your room all day every day because you’re only going to feel worse.”

    The hospital likely has many activities for a variety of interests. Child life specialists can help. You may have to think "outside the box" to actives to fit your situation, but it is still possible to have fun in the hospital, Lindsey said. Develop new hobbies and interests. Decorate your hospital room to make it feel like home, play games, and invite healthy friends over to keep you company.
  • Reach out to others at the hospital: “I found a lot of other kids of all ages at the hospital that I bonded with,” Lindsey said. Other patients and families can easily relate to your feelings. Together you support and strengthen each other. You can be a joy to someone else in need, and they can brighten you on a low day. Most hospitals have activities for different age groups such as preteens, teens, and young adults. Take advantage of these activities as they are a wonderful opportunity to meet other kids in a similar situation.”

Lindsey made friends with a 5-year-old girl while she was in the transplant unit.

“We would meet in the halls and walk laps together,” Lindsey said. “I was 19, she was 5, but that age difference didn’t matter! We cheered each other up. Often her mom would lift her up to the window on my door, so she could see me. Seeing her face and her wave outside my door brightened my day!”

  • People in your community want to help: “There’s so much support out there,” Lindsey said. “You just have to see it.” Tell family and friends what you need such as meals, child care, running errands, or housecleaning. People want to help and it’s easier on them if they know exactly what would be of most aid. It may be easier for the parent to find a go-to person they are close to who can coordinate offers of help for your family.
  • If you lose your hair, don’t worry so much about it: “When people see that you’re bald they know you’re going through something,” Lindsey said. “Think of it as a badge of courage. You’re a warrior. Though it may be hard to recognize at the time, hair loss is only temporary.”

You can get wigs in many different colors and styles. Depending on what you choose, you can pick a completely different look.

“Not many people can change their hair around that quickly depending on their mood or outfit for the day!” Lindsey said.

Patient as an adult, standing with her husband. Each of them is holding one of their twin children.

Lindsey is now an oncology nurse. She is married and the mother of twins who are 20 months old. She is pregnant with her third child at the time of this writing.

“We have no guarantee what will happen the next day, even as perfectly healthy individuals,” Lindsey said. “Make memories every day, so you can look back and see joy along the journey. Sure there will be hard and sad days while going through treatment. But live so that you can look back on the experience as a whole being able to see some blessings along the way, no matter the outcome.”

Lindsey received this poem on a plaque when she was first diagnosed.

What Cancer Cannot Do

Author Unknown

Cancer is so limited...
It cannot cripple love.
It cannot shatter hope.
It cannot corrode faith.
It cannot eat away peace.
It cannot destroy confidence.
It cannot kill friendship.
It cannot shut out memories.
It cannot silence courage.
It cannot reduce eternal life.
It cannot quench the Spirit.

 
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