Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like my Hospital Room!

A VERY overdue hello to all my family, friends, and supporters!! Once again, I have been on lots of medications, including strong pain meds that make it hard to focus enough to read or write. I haven't been on facebook, my email, or this blog unfortunately. My chemo ended about a week ago, so now my white cell count is zero and more painful side effects keep popping up. I've also been really weak since chemo, so besides a couple of (very slow) walks around the floor, I've mostly been watching TV in between having to be examined by a million doctors and residents every day. I find it pretty overwhelming and annoying to answer the same questions the same way over and over again. Anyway, I felt a little bit better this morning and I wasn't able to sleep because of the pain so I decided to distract myself by writing a blog post no matter how slowly I have to go to make sure everything makes sense! :) [Update: with breaks for taking meds and doctors needing to examine me, it took about 4 hours...yuck :P]

Health update: As my mom already informed you, I am in remission now!!! I will still need the bone marrow transplant, but also as we previously shared, my little sister Mary is a match for me. She'll be donating her stem cells rather than donating actual marrow, so she will just be hooked up to a machine by IV that extracts the stem cells from her blood and puts the blood back in. It's amazing how far medicine has come! It's a little hard to be excited about remission and having a donor when I'm dealing with pain and a little bit of nervousness about transferring to a different floor and having new challenges to face soon when I move to the transplant unit. My counts, as I said, are pretty low right now but thankfully in the last couple of days I've had a little bit more energy, specifically in the morning. However, I do get tired quickly, and even simple things like having a conversation with someone or standing up for too long make me exhausted. I am crossing my fingers and praying like crazy that my counts go up in time to go home for Christmas! If I don't get to, at least I have a beeeee-autiful Christmas tree from the Child Life Specialist I've mentioned before, Megan.

You can also see all the wonderful cards and pictures I've gotten from people! I haven't thrown ANY of my mail away, so thanks again to everyone who's sent cards and pictures. They absolutely make my day...and each one is a treasure!! :)

And, on the subject of Christmas, my cousin Eva was so sweet to paint my nails to cheer me up when she came to visit...look at her awesome work!!

Santa, Santa's belt, present with silver ribbon, and candy cane :)

I also wanted to mention a huge THANK YOU to the Plainfield Library for collecting scrapbooking supplies for me! My mom is bringing it later today and said she couldn't believe how much stuff there is--I can't WAIT to see it!! I am making a scrapbook of this journey but the art room here didn't have much scrapbooking supplies. Although it sounds crazy to want to remember this horribly painful time, fighting cancer is a part of my life now, and I do want to remember the good that comes from this...because although there's a lot of suffering at the moment, I know that God has made good come from this situation. I'm closer to my parents, I take fewer things for granted and have a new definition of contentment, and it is BEYOND overwhelming to learn how many people care about me and love me, even strangers who have simply heard my story. Anyway, thank you so much to everyone at the library for the scrapbooking supplies...I will definitely post some pics of my pages when I do them!

On a final note, another HUMONGOUS THANK YOU!!! to everyone who attended my 100 days for Sarah fundraiser! When I was told how much was raised, both on that night and on the website, my jaw dropped and I cried at how generous everyone is. Thank you so, so, SO much for your generosity. You all have made it possible for me to have the best care from one of the very best transplant doctors, and I could never thank you enough. Thank you even more to everyone who put all of it together. You are AMAZING!!! :D

Trying to think if there's anything else to update you guys on...can't think of anything off the top of my head. So I want to wish you all a very, very merry Christmas and a billionth thank you for your support and love!

love love love,

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Expectant Hope

This is Sarah's Mom, posting on her behalf, as our tough cookie is not feeling up to writing...yet.  She will soon.  But she gave me permission to share with all of you the latest from Loyola Medical Center!  Before I begin, let me thank all of the wonderful people who have participated in the Flat Sarah project on Facebook--she has enjoyed seeing the places that Flat Sarah has travelled!

As most of you know, Sarah had another bone marrow biopsy and lumbar puncture on Monday.  These are very uncomfortable procedures, but the doctors and nurses adjusted her medications for this one and Sarah tolerated it much better than in the past.  We were told that results would be ready at some point on Tuesday.  Since the cancer had not gone into remission after round one of chemo, the doctors gave her much stronger chemo for round two.  It was a tough battle for Sarah.

On Tuesday, just before noon, as we waited for results, we had a visit from one of the wonderful chaplains here at Loyola.  This young nun knows Sarah well now, and when she learned that we were waiting on big news, she hurried back down to the chapel so that the noon Mass could be offered up for Sarah.  When she returned, she spoke about the start of Advent.  Just as we begin Advent longing for the birth of our Savior, she reminded us that Sarah and our family are in a season of longing as well.  We wait, she said, in expectant hope.  That phrase really resonated for us.

A short time later, both oncologists visited to give us the news: Sarah's cancer had been brought under control and was in remission.  Remission!  There were lots of tears and hugs.  Remission, however, meant an immediate start to round three of chemo.  It is important to keep the cancer under control since Sarah's type of AML leukemia is stubborn and tough.  Patients who go into their bone marrow transplant while in remission have the best chances of recovery.

Since Sarah had been hoping to have a little break from the hospital, the news that round three would start right away was a bit sad.  Remember, Sarah has been on the oncology wing since October--she cannot leave the floor and has not had a breath of fresh outside air--or felt raindrop--or felt the wind on her face-- since.  Still, the incredible news about being in remission overcame that slight disappointment.  So far, our tough cookie is tolerating the chemo pretty well.

One wall of her hospital room is so cheerful; it is packed with cards and notes and hand-drawn pictures that people have sent her.  These surround her wall clock, so when she is having a tough time and we look at the clock as minutes pass, she sees so many expressions of love and support.  I printed out a quote from Winston Churchill: "If you are going through hell, keep going."  And she is!

Expectant hope.  We wait--Sarah's family, her friends, her sorority sisters, her caregivers, even strangers who have heard about her fight--in expectant hope that this round of chemo goes by quickly and as smoothly as possible.  We have expectant hope that the next step on this journey, which will be going upstairs to the bone marrow transplant unit, will be a seamless transition.  And, of course, we have expectant hope that God will bring a complete healing to Sarah.

So, as we all look forward to the Christmas season, please keep Sarah in your prayers.  And when you want to complain because it is too cold outside, or raining, or windy, think of our tough cookie and enjoy the snow and ice on behalf of Sarah! : )

I'm sure Sarah will post soon.

Mrs. Wielgos

Monday, November 26, 2012

On the Upswing

Hi friends and family,

I know it's been way too long since I gave anyone an update. Last week I had to have a really uncomfortable procedure followed by having to have tubes sticking out of too many places and me being absolutely miserable, not to mention having a neutropenic fever for a few days and horrible nausea. If I'm being honest, some of those days last week were honestly the hardest I've ever had to go through. My Mom stayed by my side the entire time and helped me through everything. I'm still having pain and not back to normal yet but I'm MUCH more comfortable now than I was at the beginning of the week. The good news is that my good cell counts are FINALLY starting to go up, so things can only go up from here!

I've continued to be overwhelmed by how far my story is reaching and how much support I have. I absolutely love the "Flat Sarah" group on facebook and all the cool "places I'm going." :) I also have seen a video of a special cheer the Plainfield Central cheer squad did while wearing shirts for me, and a group dedicating the song "The Middle" to me while holding up "Flat Sarah." It's amazing how many people care and are reaching out to me especially during this really, really tough time.

Hello world, Evamarie, Sarah's cousin here! Sarah asked me to finish up this blog post for her with a guest blog. Here is some of the love on her wall from all of you. I couldn't even get a picture with all of it in. Thanks for the pictures and love. Sarah received her Kindle Fire last week and she is starting to feel good enough to use it. She hopes to download some books and movies soon with an amazon gift card that was given to her from the Bare Necessities Charity.

HUGE THANK YOU to all those that have ordered Tshirts or donated on   Sarah is so grateful for all the donations and love. Sarah is currently resting comfortably while we watch TLC, Enchanted, and Family Guy. She still laughs and jokes like nothing has changed at all. Although she is in pain sometimes, she will be back in full swing soon. Sarah's nurses are amazing and very patient and kind to Sarah and we thank them alot. 

What can you do?
-Donated on Sarah's website or buy a Tshirt
-Write on Sarah's facebook group and leave some love. I always read them to Sarah when I visit since she hasn't felt up to being on facebook
- Take FLAT SARAH with you! Go onto "Flat Sarah" on facebook and print out her picture. Take Sarah to the grocery store, mall, park, or anywhere. She was laughing hysterically over the ones that have been posted. 

We love you Our Tough Cookie. 
Sarah and Evamarie

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


I don't really have a plan for this post, so it's basically going to be me rambling about random things I've been neglecting to blog about. Right now, I'm still extremely frustrated at having the same pains and nausea for days and days without change. I'm limited in some ways on medications because of my counts being so low, so even on the strongest meds the doctors can give, I have pain and bad nausea throughout the days and nights. Unfortunately, patience isn't my strongest virtue and it's beyond frustrating to wake up every day without improvement in the side effects I still have from my chemo that was a week or two ago now. Since the chemo was stronger, my body is taking longer to recover the good cells I need to start feeling better again. So that I'm not just focusing on the pain and making it worse, I am trying so hard to count the little blessings...recently, my doctors have been successful with a strong anti-nausea treatment that gives me hours at a time without my stomach churning, and it's helped me to be able to have an appetite and eat something; I have also been blessed with fantastic nurses who do everything they can to understand my pain and hold my forehead if Mom or Dad isn't there to.

When I really think about it though, I have LOTS of little blessings in the stories, cards, letters, messages, texts, and other encouragement people have given me. I want to give a HUGE THANK YOU to so many people:

-Everyone who has reached out to me recently by mail or unexpected gifts; they warm my heart, make me smile, and lift me up more than you know :)

-My Kappa Delta sisters, some of them freshmen I haven't even had the pleasure of meeting yet, sending package after package of halloween goodies, magazines and nail polish, a book full of cards I sobbed while reading, and even gorgeous hand-painted art to decorate my boring hospital room walls.

-To both of my Grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa Loebig and Wielgos, for the continual cards and packages to cheer me up,

-To my cousin Evamarie, not only my cousin but one of my best friends, for coming and having to watch me sleep numerous times but making sure I know that she's always by my side, doing whatever I need.

-To my family at school, my Oriflamme teammates (GO ORIFLAMME! GO WORLD!), the Relay for Life committee I was going to join this year who also reached out to me, and to all of the people, some I don't even know, who've sent messages of love and care and a desire to join me in my battle,

-To all of my family friends, especially the Lotz and Cemeno families, who are pouring themselves into multiple fundraising projects and support methods for my family,

-To the groups who have come together to show what multitude of supporters I have, the Ruedin's 4h group and their family, The Paul Mitchell School of Cosmetology that my cousin Rachel goes to, my Aunt Lori's CCD class, and all other groups who've reached out to me,

-To the wonderful nurses who take amazing care of me, and the staff here at Loyola who makes this floor feel like home

-To the other cancer fighters or survivors and their parents who have reached out in understanding of what my family and I are going through, like Andrew's Mom, the other kids on this floor, the staff at the Ronald McDonald house, and especially my Aunt Patty and Uncle Tim and Aunt Patty's parents (Grandparents-in-law? :)),

-To every friend and relative, near and far, who share their prayers, thoughts and love with me every day!!!

-To every stranger who also shares your prayers, thoughts, and love with me every day without even having met me in person...

No matter how horrible it is to go through cancer, somehow the good and love I see around me seems to almost balance out the bad, as crazy as that sounds. When I'm in pain or I'm brushing my teeth after an episode of nausea, sometimes I wonder how something can possibly hurt this bad. However, when I feel the incredibly overwhelming support of people literally all over the world, I wonder how someone can possibly feel this fortunate.

Because of your love, I'm still standing a strong, brave, tough cookie...and cancer STILL is not making me crumble.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Match Made in Heaven

A LONG-awaited hello to my friends and family! I've been trying to get up the energy to post for a while now. I'm not sure I'll get through a whole post, but my Mom finally encouraged me to at least type something today since it's been a few weeks since I've given anyone an update.

I promised everyone on this blog that I'd post the good and the bad, be honest about how I'm feeling or how things are going. For a while now, I've been in the really, really tough times that every cancer patient knows are coming but could never fully prepare for. At diagnosis I made the decision to fight for my life, to not back down or give up but to follow this journey all the way through. I knew my journey would involve pain and difficulty, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

This is one of those times that things are painful and difficult, and I'm not the cheerful, positive, bubbly Sarah when I'm on a lot of meds and in a lot of pain. I'm trying to learn what is means to still be "Sarah" when I'm not in a cheerful, positive "Sarah" mindset. It feels like it takes so much energy to be social, so I haven't felt up to keeping in touch with any of my friends for the past couple weeks, which is definitely just not "me." I think the best way to cope with feeling so off is to remind myself that this is temporary. I'm going day-to-day, sometimes just hour-to-hour, focusing on getting through and finding a way to distract myself from pain.

When things seem to be at their worst, though, somehow the Lord finds little ways to remind me that I am not walking alone.  My Kaydee Ladies (sorority sisters!) have sent me so many wonderful care packages; I can never thank you all enough for the smiles you bring on the gray days.  The chaplains here at Loyola have frequently offered a prayer and encouragement.  The nurses here on the peds oncology ward are there for me and always willing to give me a little insight into real-life clinicals!  Thanks, too, to my new friend Father Gavin for his visits and support.  My "twin" cousin, Evamarie, visits me and cheers me up.  The cards, pictures, and expressions of love truly brighten my dark days. about some GREAT news?!

To prepare for my bone marrow transplant, the doctors tested my siblings to determine if any of them is a match; if not, they would begin a search on the international bone marrow registry.  After much prayer, we learned that my sister, Mary Faith, is a perfect match for me.  Yes, that's my sis whose pictures are posted earlier on this blog!  What a blessing--each sib had a 25% chance of matching.  My brother, Ben, expressed no surprise at the news--"I knew it!  You and Mary both love to shop for shoes and for purses!  Of course you're a match!" he said wisely.  By the way, Ben is 11 : )

Some people have asked about my treatment timeframe.  Well, it's all up in the air.  A schedule for either more chemo or the beginning of transplant procedures is dependent on many factors that are complicated and tricky, like how my body recovers from this last round of chemo and whether those stubborn cancer cells finally bit the dust.  So, again, God is asking me to face the future day by day, trusting Him and His timeframe.

"Even miracles take a little time," reads a beautiful disney snowglobe that I received as a get-well gift.  I  am willing to wait on God's timing.  He holds me in the palm of His hand, truly.  Even during these difficult days, when I am not feeling up to posting on this blog or emailing or texting, know that I am fighting through it.  I am willing to do what it takes to overcome cancer and to use these days of both darkness and miracles to learn what God wants to teach me.

Please continue to pray for me, for my family, for the medical team which oversees my care, and for my fellow patients here at Loyola.  I might be knocked down, temporarily, but I won't stay down.  I am a fighter and a tough by day...and I'm looking forward to my match, made in heaven!  Thanks, sis!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Kiss My Ass, Cancer!

Okay, this is Sarah's Mom; for those of you who don't know me, I never use that kind of language.  But today, I am.  I hope you don't mind.
While Sarah was at home for a short time, she received the most wonderful gift from her sorority sisters: an album full of supportive notes and good wishes.  Sarah and I cried and laughed reading each one.  One of my favorites says: "Kiss My Ass! said Sarah to cancer."  We dried our tears and chuckled over that one.
On Thursday, Sarah had to repeat the bone marrow biopsy and the lumbar puncture.  Unfortunately, she developed a spinal headache from the spinal tap; that means she had debilitating migraines when she sat up or stood. Coming back to Loyola on Monday, she needed meds to help her handle the pain.  Then, we got the results from Thursday's procedures.
Unfortunately, Sarah's type of leukemia is stubborn and we learned that the cancer did not go into remission.  Yet.  So they immediately began round two of chemo, using a new, stronger regimen.  So far, she has tolerated this new chemo pretty well, all things considered.  The headaches persist, and she feels very tired. 
Kiss my ass, cancer, says Mrs. Wielgos to cancer!
That said, let me change gears and share a blessing we received yesterday.  Sarah was in the throes of a migraine, temporarily assigned a shared room in a section of the peds floor with constant beeping and noise--not a good situation.  It was painful for Sarah physically and emotionally.  And the Lord found a way to be present to us.  Into the noisy room walked a chaplain we had never seen before, offering to pray with us and for us, and offering us Christ's presence in the Eucharist.  Blessings--even amid chaos.
Please continue to pray for my girl: one tough cookie, one tough fighter.  And God is good.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Family, Friends, and Fresh Autumn Air!

Hi my beautiful readers!

The past couple of days have been WONDERFUL. Why? Because for the first time in over a month, I finally feel at least a little normal again. It's an incredible feeling! After dealing with chemo itself and all the yucky side effects afterward, I am finally getting my strength and energy back. It's so amazing to be independent again! I do still get tired easily, so my energy isn't totally where it used to be. However, I can walk around the house without needing help, get things for myself, and even sit outside for a few minutes for fresh air. Don't worry, I'm careful not to get too much cold air into my lungs, and I bundle up tight! Although I have to be careful, even having 15 minutes of fresh air is pure BLISS! :) Here are a couple of pictures of my sister and me sitting on my back deck yesterday, enjoying the gorgeous fall leaves:

(In the hospital, my cousin Eva taught me how to tie my headscarf in an adorable "rosette" style...kind of like a side bun if I had hair. :) You can pretty much see it in the picture. Cute, right?)

(For some reason, I've really been into wearing bracelets recently! On the bottom is an orange leukemia ribbon one from my Aunt and Uncle, the next up is one I made for myself with beads printed with uplifting words, the next is a charm bracelet from a wonderful family friend, and on top is my wooden Saints bracelet. :))

I love my sister!!! :)

In addition to hanging out with family yesterday, I FINALLY got to see one of my very best friends, Megan Salkeld!! (Different Megan than the one who works in child life at the hospital...haha). Now, for those of you who don't know Megan, I HAVE to talk about her a little bit, which I know will embarrass her because she's too humble to ever want to be the center of attention! However, this girl has done more for me than I ever expected a friend to do, and since this blog is about the current happenings in my life, I want to share with everyone what a blessing this friend has been to me throughout this entire experience. At the beginning of my freshman year of college, Megan and I bonded by hanging out on a little area we called "the stairs" out in our hallway because we both had roommate problems. We're definitely very different, but I guess opposites attract because soon we found ourselves laughing out loud at the stupidest things, staying up way too late trying to study but not being able to stop cracking jokes and doing dumb stuff (there's really no other way to describe what we did...haha!). Then and even now, Megan is the person that can make me laugh harder than anyone else I know. We were roommates this year (and at least to me, we were absolute PERFECT roomies!) before I was diagnosed. Now, as I said in the first post I made on this blog, finding out I had cancer began when I came down with a horrible case of strep that led me to the throat got so swollen that I could barely swallow water, and I was in an extreme amount of pain. When she got home from work, I asked if she'd be willing to go with me to the ER so I didn't have to be alone. Without any hesitation she said "Of course, you really think I'd let you go by yourself??" and stayed with me late into the evening, even though she had a test the next day. That next day, I wasn't able to keep down my antibiotics and pain pills, and when I came out of the bathroom crying and explained, Megan immediately called our Public Safety officers for another ride to the ER and once again kept me company...this time until 4 a.m., with classes and work the next day. During my ER visits, Megan called and texted my parents all night to keep them updated, and, when I was in so much pain, somehow STILL made me laugh like nobody else could. The next day, as most of you know, I came home to my parents, still thinking that my illness was strep or mono or something similar. When I was diagnosed with cancer that Wednesday morning, I still remember calling her in the car on my way to the hospital to break the news to her. The first thing she said was, "I am totally willing to get on a train today and skip classes if you need me!" Obviously I could never have asked so much of her, and I had my parents now to take care of me. But the simple fact that she was willing to drop everything just to be there for was overwhelming. I have always felt like I have had trouble making close friends, but I thank God every day that I found a friend like Megan. I am almost crying thinking about how selfless she is and what amazing, incredible, unbelievable friendship she has shown me. She has always, ALWAYS been there for me no matter WHAT...even through cancer...and not only been there, but honestly shown me a kind of care and love that I can't even fully describe. I could literally go on and on about how amazing my friend Megan has been to me...but this blog post would be more of a novel to read than it already is!! :)

I hadn't seen Megan since I left school, so being reunited was AWESOME! What I loved most is that nothing at all had changed. We literally talked just like we always had, but it went on for hours as we updated each other on our lives. Although my life is dramatically different now, talking and laughing together again felt like nothing had changed, and was an amazing feeling.

So, sorry Megan if I totally just embarrassed you...but that's what sisters are supposed to do, right? ;)

Here's some fun pics we took with my webcam...crazy and doing dumb stuff as always! Haha!

She was SO excited that she got to wear a mask haha! 
Why? "Because I feel like I'm keeping you healthy!!" 
She didn't wanna take it off hahaha

 When I left the room, this is what I found...>

< Not even sure what this

Thank you to EVERYONE, all my family and friends, who have been supporting me with more love and care than I ever imagined!!! I am beyond blessed to have so many FANTASTIC people in my life, so thank you to absolutely everyone who has reached out to hold my hand in a variety of ways during this difficult time. I am feeling more loved than I think I ever's incredible! :)

Alright, I'll finally wrap up this extra-long post! :) Since I mostly blogged about yesterday, I'll have another post soon about my adventures today. It was one BUSY day and even after a nap today I'm tired...but it was GREAT! Can't wait to share more with you guys, but for now I'm going to rest a little!

Lots of love!!!


Friday, October 19, 2012

Home, SWEET home!!! :D

Hey hey hey everyone!

I have FANTASTIC news: I AM FINALLY HOME!!! After spending over a month confined to a single floor of the hospital (because my immune system is so weak, I wasn't allowed to leave the floor at any time throughout the month), it feels INCREDIBLE to breathe in sweet, amazingly fresh fall air! Of course, I will only be home for about a week, depending on how my counts are with regular check-ups back at the hospital. After the week at home, I'll have to go back for another round of chemo, which will last about a month again. Leaving the hospital took after doctor after nurse after social worker had to come see me before I was discharged, not to mention having to get my IV meds and clean everything out of my room. I was incredibly antsy and could barely sit still all morning! After a while, I was actually so overwhelmed and stressed from waiting that I went down to the child life room I blogged about last post and did some coloring to feel better. I was so glad that I went down there, because as my Mom took care of my prescriptions and took the first load of stuff down to the car, I got to meet a couple of other oncology (fancy hospital word for cancer) kids: an adorable little two-year-old boy named Jedediah (Jed for short), and a really sweet 12 year old girl named Jess. The floor we're all on is just a general pediatric (kids) floor, so it's not just for kids with cancer; pretty much every kid who's admitted to the hospital is on our floor. Because of the variety of cases on the floor, us oncology kids definitely have a special bond. We're always back and forth to the hospital for treatment, like chemo, and we all share a lot of the same struggles. It was so great to talk to Jed's dad, Jess, and Jess's mom, and Jess even taught me how to finger knit, which is such a fun activity to make the time pass! I talked to the two families about being discharged, and they both definitely sympathised with how frustrating the waiting process is. I was so relieved to not be thinking about when I would get to leave, and soon enough, the nurse and my Mom came to get me to go over the last set of instructions so I could go! When I stepped out into the amazing autumn air, every second of agitation over waiting vanished. I breathed in as much of it as I could through my mask, and once we got to the car and started driving, I stuck my head out the window a little to get as much air as I could. The trees we saw on the way home were absolutely gorgeous as well! Since it was still summer when I came to the hospital and I was in shorts and flip flops, it was crazy that a new season had come so quickly. I like fall though, so I was smiling almost the whole ride home...even with the traffic. :)

A note about visiting: now that I'm home, I know that a lot of people will probably want to visit, which is so touching! However, I will need to limit visitors because now that I am out of the hospital, it's even more important that I stay away from as many germs as possible. Since I am still recovering from chemo, still on strong meds, and still SEVERELY neutropenic (like I said yesterday, a word that means my immune system is shot), I may not be able to visit with many people depending on how I am feeling. PLEASE still call ahead if you would like to visit and my family will let you know if I am feeling up to visitors on a specific day. IF I am feeling up to it and you can visit, here are some guidelines to help you know how to best help me!

1. Any visitors need to be in absolutely PERFECT HEALTH!!! If you even have a small runny nose or any cold symptoms, visiting unfortunately has to be a no-no. Colds are actually one of the worst illnesses I could get because they can't be treated with antibiotics, and my body has absolutely no way to fight off a cold. So if you even feel just a tiny bit sniffly, let's skype or facebook instead!!

2. Before coming into my room, my Mom will direct you to hand sanitizer for your hands, and we may ask you to wear a mask and gloves. Again, this is just so that any little hidden buggies won't find their way into me!! Also, and this is the very hardest for me since I am basically the biggest hugger in the world :), but hugs may have to be a no-no as well. Germs can hide on clothing and unfortunately I just have to take every precaution I can! My family and I have been doing "hand hugs": holding both hands together.

3. I know I said it above, but just a reminder: please call one of us before visiting!!! If you call my cell and I don't respond, I may be sleeping or just having a rough day and not feel up to visitors. I will do my best to see as many people as I can, but my body is being a little unpredictable at the moment.

This is SO, so hard for me because I honestly want to just have every single friend and family member around me to hug and talk for hours and hours with! If you know me, you know I am a total social butterfly. :) However, part of this fight is being strong enough to make tough choices about when I need to rest and be alone, and even tougher choices about how to adequately control possible germs I could be exposed to. Please know that I still love each and every one of you just as much as I always have, but I have to make my top priority taking care of myself and not catching any illnesses.

I am BEYOND happy to finally be home...yay!!! Time to spend time with family, but as I said before I will have lots more pictures coming soon!

As always, love love and more love!


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Feeling better...FINALLY! (Also: One month since diagnosis...CRAZY)

Hellooooo from Chicago!

I have some GREAT news: since Sunday, I've been feeling more like myself than I have since starting chemo!!! WOW. I am walking like crazy now; I don't have to lean on my IV pole and hold my Mom's arm! I spend most of the day in the Child Life room here on the floor, where the amazing Child Life Specialist, Megan, organizes lots of crafts and activities for us. I just finished a really cool decoupage/collage box:

Cool, right? :) Crafting is AMAZING therapy for me. It keeps me occupied and distracted, so it's great to pass the time. Also, there are some really cool people who volunteer in the child life room, so it's awesome to meet and talk to so many cool people! I especially love hanging out with the med students who volunteer there as part of a peds interest group. Seeing as I'm on the kids floor, (as much as I love the little ones) it's great to have people around my age to talk to and hang out with. Today, I also met two 11 or 12 year old girls who decided that instead of asking for birthday presents at their big birthday party with all of their friends, they would ask for craft supplies to donate to the child life room! They were absolutely adorable and I could not BELIEVE how selfless that choice was! I thanked them over and over and chatted with them about what it's like to live in the hospital ("Do you have a bed here?" "What food do you eat?") and about what it's like to have cancer. They were SO excited to come back again so they could do some crafts with us. It feels INCREDIBLE to finally be feeling well enough to walk around and have enough energy to hang out in the child life room all day to meet some great people!

MORE good news: after a month in the hospital, I GET TO GO HOME on Friday! YES! I am still VERY neutropenic, meaning that my immune system can't fight sicknesses. If I'm exposed to someone who has a cold or even just a little runny nose, I could get REALLY sick and my body wouldn't be able to get rid of the infection. Although I'm really excited to see my roommate Megan this weekend and hopefully some other friends while I'm home, visiting is still going to have to be very limited. The more people I'm exposed to, the bigger chance I have of catching something...even just germs from their clothes from a hug or something crazy like that. Thankfully, however, for the first time in over a month, I will be able to GO OUTSIDE and get some fresh, non-hospital air! That is definitely what I am MOST MOST MOST excited about!!!

As I was typing, I realized that today marks exactly one month since the day I got the phone call that I had leukemia. This past month is a blur of confusion, disbelief, and absolute craziness...but it has also been a rush of support and encouragement, strength and the will to fight, and lessons that I would never learn otherwise. Thank you for an entire month of love, thoughts, and prayers!!! You are all INCREDIBLE people who have given me strength. Thank you! <3

I will be blogging again soon with more pictures I haven't gotten on my computer yet and hopefully more good news...from home!! Keep up the fantastic thoughts and prayers as you always do, and I promise that whether I am on an "Up" like now, or a "Down" like last week, I will never, never stop fighting. I love you all and I'm keeping tough!!

Quick shout out to all my SLU peeps: GOOD LUCK WITH MIDTERMS!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Missed Me?! :)

Hello again! I am SO sorry it's been so long since I last posted. I've been on some STRONG pain meds, so I've had trouble reading, writing, and even sitting up to use my laptop. Thankfully I have tons of DVD's from my Aunt and Uncle to zone out to! The last week has been a total roller coaster...lots of ups, lots of downs. I'm going to let my Dad give you guys an update since this is about as much as I can write and still make sense. :) Whenever my doctors let me off my annoying pain meds I promise to write a BIG post from me!!

As always, lots of love and I promise I'm still staying strong! <3

This is Sarah's Dad.
Sarah had a tough end-of-last-week, as she struggled with several painful issues. But starting Friday, her body started responding better to treatment, and Saturday and Sunday we started seeing the vibrant, happy, active Sarah that we all love. Saturday and Sunday, Sarah was determined to get some exercise, because her body started craving movement (a good sign!). She took four laps around the Pediatric floor on Saturday with her Mom, and on Sunday she broke her record by taking four more laps in the morning and five laps with me on Sunday night. Sarah's a favorite patient among the nurses and doctors here, and her room has become a place for them to "hang out" and talk. There's a lot of laughter in the room, and we've been told that her wall shows off more great cards from family and friends than most of them have ever seen. Like she says, there are times when the pain medication makes her sleepy or "spacey," but overall, she had a good weekend.

Several nurses have admired her window, where visitors draw pictures, sign autographs, and write encouraging messages. Keep praying for Sarah's healing! The Holy Spirit is very strong here! 

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Ups and downs and ups and downs...

This is Sarah's Mom again...Sarah has had a couple of challenging days, so she hasn't felt up to posting.  But she thinks of all of you often and asked me to let you all know that she is a fighter and will get through all of this.  Sarah actually slept pretty well last night, and her appetite is starting to return, so I expect that she will soon be up to a new post.  I've decided to keep a gratitude journal with Sarah, listing all the good things that happen each the stack of colorful scarves that a Girl Scout troop tie-dyed and donated for patients here...a visit from a wonderful SLU friend who delivered some cards and good wishes, too...a care package from her Kappa Delta sorority sisters...the sweet and caring pastoral staff here...the list goes on.  God is good, and so are His people.  Check back soon for a real update from our tough cookie.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bald is Beautiful!

Hey there, everyone!

After my last post, I have the new report that, yes, my hair is almost all gone. Friday my smooth, shiny hair somehow became so matted and tangled that we couldn't get a brush through must have somehow been from the chemo. My Mommy gave me a haircut and although I cried at the first few snips, I was SO happy when I looked in the mirror! She was able to save a lot of the hair in the front and on top of my head, and I actually thought it turned out to be a very cute style. Here's what it looked like that night:

For that night and most of Saturday, it was really comforting to have short hair to help me transition to being a baldy! Saturday night more hair fell out and I started getting some bald spots, so this morning I asked my fabulous stylist (aka Mommy :)) to cut it much shorter so the spots don't bother me as much. Now I have VERY thin, VERY blond hair that my Mom and I are calling "baby hair"! I have always had thick, brown-blond hair, but now it's super fine and a lighter blond than I have EVER seen in my hair! Since I have bald spots, I decided it was time to practice tying some cute scarves and bandannas around my head, so my Mom picked some up to try. I really like the look they give me, and my Mom keeps saying that my head is the perfect shape for scarves!! Haha!

I also got a surprise package today from my best friend's aunt and her family. I was overwhelmed with how far my story had spread and how much people cared that they would put together a wonderful gift to make me smile! One of the things in the package was a big stuffed animal doggy...I don't know if Julia told them a dog was my favorite animal, but I am IN LOVE with my new buddy!! I haven't named him yet, but I did want to take some pictures with him to show you guys my new 'do! Here's some pics:

Me with my pretty pink scarf! I love it! :)

My new puppy <3

We wanted to match...haha

Chi-Town pride!!! The sequined "cubbies" hat was a gift from one of our family friend and one of the BEST surprises ever...definitely my favorite hat!! Also, our Child Life Specialist here on the peds floor, Megan, has a friend who "blinged" my other cubs hat! LOVE IT!

I am realizing more and more that, as I said on my last post, beauty is so much more than physical appearance. I look in the mirror, scarf on my almost-bald head, glasses instead of contact lenses, no makeup, and a big t-shirt...and I can honestly say that I feel beautiful! I have this thing where I always smile at myself when I look in the mirror. It gives me confidence and reminds me how much beauty a simple smile can add to anyone's face. I did it when I was back at school and I wore cute clothes (that weren't pajamas!) and had hair and bothered with makeup, and now I still do it standing in my hospital bathroom. Yes, I've lost my hair and my contact lenses (too much risk for germs), but that doesn't mean I'm any less pretty than I used to be! I just have a few more accessories, and I think my glasses and scarves are pretty darn cute. ;) This experience is teaching me more about beauty and self-confidence than I would ever have learned otherwise, and I am so grateful for such a wonderful lesson I'll keep with me for the rest of my life.

Well, enough rambling for tonight. My nurse told me to tell everyone on my blog that the peds nurses on my floor say hi!!! They are the most wonderful team of people and I am SO blessed to have them all taking care of me and having my back. They aren't just treating my physical symptoms; they honestly care about my story, who I am, how I'm feeling, etc. It's amazing to have such a great group advocating for me!

To end my update, not too much has changed recently. I am still "neutropenic" from chemo, meaning my white blood cells, the cells that fight infection, are extremely low, so my immune system is pretty much gone. It's just a waiting game until those cell numbers to go back up and some of the painful side effects I'm having subside. Once all of that happens, I get to go home for a little bit before the next round of chemo! Yes! :)

Here are a few more pics for you guys, enjoy! Love love love all around as always!


My cousin Evamarie and I built the most adorable castle EVER, complete with lots of surgical tape instead of glue ("everything included" was a lie!) while watching Grey's Anatomy :) SO much fun! Thanks Auntie Barb for the awesome kit!!

One more cool story: my little brother Ben's baseball coach made me an honorary member of the team by making a special jersey and hat for me..they even put my name on both!! For their tournament last week all of the boys put orange ribbons on their sleeves like the one on mine above as a sign of support for our family. It was AMAZING to get that uniform, and it was even better for my brother to know that his whole team had his back. THANKS, SWARM!! :D

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Finally...I'm Back!!

Hellooooo, my beautiful family, friends, and supporters!!

I am finally feeling up to writing another post. Thanks to my Mommy for keeping everyone in the loop when I wasn't feeling so hot. However, today has been a good day and things are looking up in general! After the colitis that my Mom blogged about (some bacteria got caught in my large intestine, so I had to be on strong antibiotics and go without eating and drinking for 3 days), I have slowly started getting my tummy back to a normal diet, and now that the chemo is done for a little bit, my appetite is coming back as well! My favorite thing to eat right now? Chocolate! I still have a HUGE sweet tooth like I always have and I am loving a candy bar or brownie here and there. :) It feels so good to start wanting to eat again, and now that I am not on chemo and able to drink liquids, I also get to be disconnected from my annoying IV pole! MORE good news: aside from some painful side effects and having to be on some pain meds still, I am feeling really good physically. I have more energy and feel stronger than I have since my chemo started! It's funny how this experience is making me appreciate the little things in life: being able to eat again, going to the bathroom by myself, and not dragging an IV pole around with me are making me really happy and positive! I am learning not to take the little things for granted, and I see that lesson as a blessing.

On a not-so-happy note, I woke up this morning to hair on my pillow. Yes, it's finally begun to fall out. Because my hair is so thick it still looks like I have a full head of hair, but I can tell that it's thinner. When I run my fingers through my hair (and if you've ever spent much time with me, you know it's a horrible habit of mine! :)) they come out with a little chunk of hair. I've just been keeping a garbage can next to my bed so I don't have to look at it for too long. I have been really coming to terms with the fact that I am going to be bald soon, and I'm surprisingly not too upset about it. I told my Mom the other morning when we were talking about it, "I'm willing to do whatever it takes to fight, and if being bald for a little while is what it takes, I'm totally up for it." I have some really cute Chicago cubbie hats already and I'm planning on getting some pretty scarves to wear as well. The people that really matter in my life have already assured me that bald is going to be beautiful on me, and I trust them and agree with them. In my opinion, beauty is all about your attitude; the way you hold yourself, a genuine smile on your face, and eyes that care about the world around you. I've always believed that beauty is not in physical appearance, and losing my hair is going to be the ultimate testimony to that philosophy! It will be hard to get used to looking in the mirror and not seeing my thick head of hair staring back. But you know what I will see? The same beautiful face and bright smile I have always had...nothing, not even cancer, can take that smile away from me!

Another thing, a lot of people have been sweetly asking for my address. Since this blog is public I don't feel comfortable posting on here, but if you'd like my address please just send me an email at and I'll send it to you! Just being cautious with a little "stranger danger." ;)

I am so blessed to have such amazing family and friends around me. I've been feeling up to more visitors recently, and it's been absolutely wonderful to finally see my friends again! I'm putting some pictures below so you can all see how truly blessed I am! :)

As always, tons and tons of love to all of you and THANK YOU for the prayers and support. I feel your prayers and care every day, and it makes me stronger and brighter! <3



Here's a picture of when my little brother and sister came to visit me! This is us watching How to Train Your Dragon :)

Here's my friends Julia and Mary who came to visit! Such an awesome surprise and SO nice to have our girl talk as if we were sitting at a Starbucks rather than my hospital room

This is me with one of the pet therapy dogs that come to see us every Wednesday!! It's definitely the BEST day of the week!

Here on the peds (pediatric) floor, we also had a really awesome volunteer who did henna tattoos on our feet! She was actually a leukemia survivor who was also treated here and wanted to come back now that she's in remission to hang out with others who are going through what she did. It was amazing to get to talk with her and learn about her journey, and I LOVE my henna!! Henna is an Indian tradition and, don't worry, it's only temporary! :)

<3 <3 <3

Monday, October 1, 2012

One day at a time!

Hi--it's Sarah's Mom again.  It has been another long day, but the good news is that she has FINISHED HER FIRST 10-DAY CHEMOTHERAPY TREATMENT!!!  Hooray.  We will celebrate when she is feeling up to it.  So far, we have had a few good laughs over some ridiculous cable TV shows like "Breaking Amish" (kind of interesting in a weird way) and "Secret Princes" (none of whom, by the way, is remotely good enough for my girl.)  Also, Sarah has compiled some really funny leukemia pick up lines ("Hey, girl!  Wanna see if we're a bone marrow match?") which she will have to blog about when she feels better.  Remind her if she forgets!  A highlight today was when the phone rang in her hospital room...I answered, and it was Father Biondi, president of Saint Louis University, calling to express his care and the concern and prayers of the community.  What a kind and thoughtful gesture from a very busy man.  One of the reasons this has been a tough couple of days is that Sarah developed a form of colitis common to neutropenic AML patients; it is a blessing that the doctors caught it early, but Sarah now cannot eat. Or drink. Anything...until the doctors feel her intestines are clear.  So, as you can tell, although Sarah is still not feeling too good, she still has moments when she can smile and joke about things.  I am sure that now, since she finished her first round of chemo, she will slowly gain back her strength and battle back from all the crummy side effects and post again soon.  Please continue to pray for our girl.  She is a warrior.
Peace, Mrs. W.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Tough days for a tough cookie

Well, this is Sarah's Mom writing an entry...Sarah doesn't feel up to posting today.  She has had a tough couple of days with the side effects of the chemo.  But she wants to let her friends and family know that she sees this as a marathon, not a sprint, so there will be good days and bad days.  She is working to keep her spirits up and she is focused on the better days to come.  Words can't express how much your love and support, through your comments here, along with your cards, texts, and emails, have blessed her.  Sarah is an incredibly strong and faith-filled young woman.  Please continue to pray for her, and I'm sure she will soon be posting more updates here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Some Good News, Some Bad News...But That's Life, Right?! :)

First of all, I have some great news to share! Today marks HALFWAY through my first chemo treatment!!! YES! Now, I know that I mentioned my chemo "cycles," which will be about a month each...since today marks a week since my diagnosis and admittance into the hospital, obviously I'm not halfway done with a whole cycle yet. I'm just halfway done with the crappiest part of a cycle! ;) This "cycle" includes 10 days of the actual chemo, and then about two and a half more weeks after the chemo of resting until all of those good cells come back to the right amounts I'm supposed to have in my body. Today marks 5 days of chemo, so just 5 more to go! Chemo makes me feel really tired and sometimes gives me nausea, headaches, or dizziness. Luckily the hospital has GREAT anti-nausea meds so when I feel really sick, I am usually able to get something to help me sleep through it and feel better when I wake up.

Although I'm tolerating it pretty well, the worst thing about the chemo is how it effects my appetite. When I was trying to explain to my Dad how my body feels about food, the best description I had was "You could put a slice of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake in front of me and I wouldn't want to eat it." Food has become something that I have to force myself to eat so that I have enough energy and nutrition...but as the days have gone on, it gets harder and harder to eat. It's really tough to have the pleasure of even the yummiest foods taken away for a little bit. Thankfully though, the hospital has LOTS of meal-replacement drinks that I can have along with whatever food I feel like I can get down, and I saw a dietitian today to discuss how I can maintain my nutrition and weight in my food struggles. I had kind of a realization today: so many women fantasize about being able to lose weight, and some even go to desperate measures to do so. But then, here's me, being disappointed about losing weight and wanting to put it back on as soon as I can!! I genuinely love my body and really want my figure to stay as it is for as long as I can maintain it. I think I have really taken for granted not only food itself and having the appetite to eat healthy and nutritious foods, but being able to maintain a healthy weight that makes me feel good about myself. However, all of this being said, I have heard that after the actual chemo is done (5 more days!!), my appetite should go back to normal and those two and a half weeks will be a perfect time to get all my favorite foods back into my tummy. :) My Mom told me a few days ago that one of her wonderful friends is fasting for me, and even though I don't think my Mom had told her about my food struggles, I cried when my Mom told me. In addition to the spiritual aspect, it felt so cool to know that someone else was giving up the pleasure of food for a day like I am while I get my chemo. Obviously I am willing to do whatever it takes to fight!!!

Now for a little bit of bad news. I believe I had explained that my type of leukemia is AML, but that I didn't yet know whether I was high or low risk. The GOOD news is that after looking at all of the genetic info in my bone marrow, the doctors learned that I do NOT have the flt 3 gene (I believe it's called), which would make me very high risk and would make this a much harder fight. However, the unfortunate news I have to share is that my chromosomes do show that I am high risk, which means that I will need a bone marrow transplant after 3 cycles of chemo. Thankfully, after sharing this news with me, my doctor right away said "Don't worry...YOU WILL BE CURED!" He had no doubt that I would be able to find a donor, and while this will add a few months onto my treatment, my doctor assured me that I will be in remission and totally cancer-free after my transplant! I am not sure doctors are technically able to promise things like that, but he definitely came as close to a promise as he's allowed to. So, after my 3 months of chemo, it will be about 4-5 months total filled with preparing for the transplant, the actual transplant, and my recovery. Even though it's a little longer than I had been crossing my fingers for, I am completely up for this battle, no matter how long it will be. I am strong, I am tough, and I have faith that God has HUGE plans for my future...I'm not stopping here! Again, this is just a detour I have to get through in life, and while it's not going to be an easy journey, I am more than ready to give everything I have to make myself well again!

For some brighter news again, tomorrow I will update you on some of the happy stuff that I've been up to with the volunteers here on the peds floor, including pictures of getting some awesome henna and....get this....a visit with PET THERAPY PUPPIES!!! :D They do a great job of making sure we don't get too bored here. Who could possibly be unhappy around the best animals known to man?! ;)

I love you all and thank you thank you thank you for the thoughts and prayers!!! I am fighting HARD and I promise not to stop until this cancer is 100% GONE! :)


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Update!

Good morning!!! This is me, still smiling big, and my little bear who's been by my side :)

I just logged on again to give you guys another little update and I saw how many people have seen my blog so far...all I can say is WOW!!! I absolutely cannot believe how many people have been reaching out to me since my diagnosis and how much support I've received during this crazy, challenging time. Once again, all I can say is thank you, thank you, thank you. All of the messages and such I read give me more strength than you guys could ever know. Thank you also to all who have been reaching out to my family recently. Although  I don't know a whole lot of what's happening at home as I am focusing on getting better here at Loyola, I know that there have been so many friends and family helping my family to have what they need so that they can all be here for me. So again, although I know I say this over and over...thank you!

Now for an update! Sunday night and Monday were just kinda crappy. I knew going through chemotherapy wasn't always going to be easy when I signed up for it, and I was right. Thankfully I had my Daddy and Mommy to get me through the tough stuff, holding my hand and letting me cry. I've learned a lot that being strong and tough during cancer treatments doesn't mean always having a smile on. It means learning how to cope with the pain, learning how to get through it without giving up. I'm learning that going through chemo is a roller coaster: sometimes I feel fine and I'm laughing and watching movies with my family, but sometimes I feel really, really sick and I need to cry or sleep or just hold my parents' hands through those times. No matter how sick I feel sometimes, I know that my tears are tears of bravery. I am courageous enough to go through some really painful, tough stuff so that I can beat the nasty cancer in my body. And trust me, no matter how much it might hurt...I will never, never give up. I know that after the painful symptoms have made their way through, eventually I'll get to the top of the hill on that roller coaster again. 

I also wanted to answer some questions that I'm guessing a lot of people are asking. I know it's sometimes awkward to ask certain questions, so I decided to just put them out there! 

1. Am I going to lose my hair? The answer is, unfortunately, yes. If you've known me for a long enough period of time, you know that in middle school and high school the WORST threat my brother could make at me was cutting off all my hair! Yes, I love my hair and I wish I didn't have to part from it for a short time. However, my friend Emily who also has cancer has assured me many times that "bald is beautiful" and she is absolute proof of that phrase! I need to fight this cancer with everything I have, and if it means I'll get better, I'm totally up to losing my hair for a little bit. There are SO many cute scarves and hats out there, and I'm especially excited to get to rep my cubbies more often!! :) I am willing to do anything to beat the cancer inside me, including lose my hair for a short amount of time. Bald is beautiful!!!

2. Since my blood cell counts are low, what kind of rules does the hospital want my family and friends to follow? Basically what that means is that as the chemo is killing off the bad cancer cells, it also kills some of the good cells that my body uses to fight infection. If I catch something like a cold, my body may not be strong enough to fight it. The doctors want to make sure that all my family and friends know that if they come to visit, they NEED to be 100% well! As much as I want to give everyone I know a huge hug right now, if you have a cold or virus or even just a runny nose, it's better to call or skype me for the time being. Also, the doctor has told me that I can't have fresh flowers in my room, so although all my many secret admirers see this as their chance to give me a dozen roses ;) any flowers I get will have to be at the nurses station for me to come out and see when I can. I guess flowers and fresh fruit can harbor bacteria and other microorganisms that could possibly make me sick, so they're a no no for now...even if it's a bouquet from my prince charming. ;) They said that stuffed animals are fine as long as they are brand new and haven't been exposed to anyone who's sick.

3. Can I come visit? I absolutely LOVE getting to see everyone that I miss so dearly! However, those "down" parts of the roller coaster can come unexpectedly, and it's hard to have enough energy to talk and hang out when I'm not feeling good. The best thing to do is text/call me or my parents when you're thinking of visiting, and if it's a good time, plan to call again a few hours before you leave. Hopefully it'll be an "up" day, but if it's not, we can plan a time that would work better!

I am feeling pretty good this morning, so I am thinking that today is hopefully going to be an "up" day, or at least an "up" morning! I'll continue to keep you all updated on how things are going and I love you all very very much!!!


Sunday, September 23, 2012

A much-deserved HELLO to my dear family and friends!!!

You have NO idea how long I have been wanting to update each and every one of you on the absolute CHAOS that has been the last few days! However, between all of the crazy procedures/tests I had to have from the moment I was admitted to the hospital and starting chemo recently, it's been hard to find time when I feel well enough to text, call, respond on facebook, etc.! One of my wonderful friends who was diagnosed with cancer last year started a blog to keep all of us posted on how she was doing. It's a great way that you guys can all have the latest updates on how I'm doing and share with whomever you wish! I'll post as often as I can or ask my wonderful parents to post sometimes.

I wanna start with explaining how I was diagnosed and why this was so sudden. When I was back at school last week, I came down with a horrible virus that included my throat swelling so much that I had trouble even drinking water. I had had strep the first week of school treated with antibiotics, and got sick just a couple of days after finishing the antibiotics. My amazing roommate took me to the ER where I was diagnosed with strep throat again, given more antibiotics and painkillers, and sent back to my apartment. However, the next day nothing was improving, and once I starting throwing up all of the pills, my roommate once again took me back to the ER, where they did bloodwork to see if I had mono. My doctor told me that my blood counts were unusual so I should be admitted to the hospital immediately. After calling my mom, I decided that it would be better to come home so that my Mom and Dad could take care of me, and instead of being admitted in Saint Louis, I went to see my primary doctor back at home. He ordered more bloodwork, told me it could be a variety of things making my bloodcounts weird, and I was sent home for the night. The next morning, the hematologist (blood doctor basically) called me and told me on the phone "You have leukemia." I absolutely could not believe it. I broke down right then and there, shaking, crying, and hugging my Mom. The hematologist told me that she had already contacted Loyola hospital in Chicago and that there would be a room ready that afternoon so that I could start chemotherapy treatments immediately. I literally went from thinking I had mono or strep to being told that I had cancer and would have to have chemo right away. My entire world suddenly turned upside-down. Many times with leukemia, there aren't warning signs until it's pretty far advanced, so that's why it was such a shock that I had it since I didn't show any symptoms besides a low immune system because of my white blood cell counts being low and the presence of cells called blasts in my blood. Now that I look at it, I feel absolutely blessed that I was in the ER that night; otherwise, I really don't know when this would have been caught. God works in crazy ways!

I was admitted to the pediatric (kids :)) floor in Loyola hospital in Chicago, and I absolutely LOVE being on a peds floor! the nurses are really great, and if you know me at all, the very BEST part is the HUGE closet of DISNEY MOVIES! I mean any disney movie you can possibly imagine. :) Going back to being admitted though, the first couple of days were full of blood tests, a bone marrow extraction and spinal tap (ouch!), and getting a port placed in me so I can receive my IV meds better. After making it through the bone marrow biopsy, I can literally say I can make it through anything now!! Your marrow is the inside part of your bone, so they have to make a little hole in the bone and suck some of the fluid out. I squeezed my Mommy's hand during that and my Daddy's hand during the spinal tap, and after those procedures I feel like an incredibly strong woman. After all the craziness of those procedures, now they have started my chemotherapy, which I'm responding well to! They have lots of great anti-nausea meds that they keep me on 'round the clock so while I do have times when I feel a little sick in my tummy, I'm not throwing up and I'm eating great! I have been feeling really weak; trips to the bathroom and back leave me a little short of breath and tired. However, that's actually a good sign because it means the chemo is working to kill all these nasty cancer cells...and, once I'm done with chemo, I'll be able to regain my strength!!

As far as the leukemia itself goes, leukemia is cancer of the blood. Basically, my bone marrow, kind of like a cell factory, isn't making adult cells like it needs to; many of the cells, especially white blood cells that I need to fight infections, are coming out of the factory as baby cells that can't do what my body needs them to. Those baby cells are called "blasts." The type of leukemia I have is called AML, and there are two possible treatments I could need depending on whether I am high or low risk. To explain, while most cancers are labeled with stages depending on how far the cancer has spread, since leukemia is in my blood and already goes all around my body, it's diagnosed as high or low risk. I won't know which I am until the lab results from my bone marrow come back next week, but here's the scoop: if I am LOW risk (praying!), I simply have to have 4 cycles of chemo (about 4 months), and that should put me into remission...which means, CANCER FREE! If I am HIGH risk, it means I will have 3 cycles of chemo and then I will definitely need a bone marrow transplant. Although it sounds scary, I have been reassured by my doctor that I have a good chance with finding a donor, especially with so many siblings. A note to all my KD sistas and SLU friends: if you signed up to be a bone marrow donor (when they had you swab your cheek), you're now in the database to be a donor for me if I end up being high risk!! Pretty cool, huh? :) Overall, my doctor is EXTREMELY confident that I will be in remission soon! The plan of care he is using for me has put every single one of his patients he has treated with AML into remission, so I have no doubt whatsoever that I will be cancer free soon and back to nursing school at SLU!!!

Lastly, as everyone is am I doing with all of this? Surprisingly, I feel SO hopeful. I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and while I don't know why God has me here, I know that he will make good out of this situation somehow. Yes, I have cancer. And yes, it is going to be a long journey that is not going to be easy. However, I am STRONG, I am TOUGH, and I know without a doubt that I will beat this!!! I know that God has some amazing plans for my life, so I know that this stupid leukemia is just a roadblock I have to get through.

A HUGE HUGE HUUUUUGE THANK YOU for the beautiful messages, texts, comments, and support! I smile and cry reading each and every one. I know that I haven't been able to reply to everyone individually because of all I've been through in the past few days, but every message gives me strength to keep fighting.

I love you all and will keep you posted on how I'm doing! Just remember that cancer can't make me crumble; I am one tough cookie :)