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Sara’s Fight Like a Girl Story (Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia)

Leukemia Ribbon On December 17th 1992 when I was 17 yrs old, I was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. Over the course of the next 2 yrs (which I spent as a permanent resident of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto).

I underwent multiple induction and consolidation courses of chemo, was part of 3 drug trials, and had an autologous bone marrow transplant. I also experimented with traditional Eastern medicine, I drank the tree bark, had acupuncture, took the pills that had labels written in Chinese characters (they really could have been ANYTHING), I was desperate.

After struggling and fighting every minute of every day and though all of my attempts at treating my disease, all of which failed miserably, my oncologist came into my hospital room 22 months after the initial date I was admitted. His demeanor suggested it was not going to be a good visit. He told me that though I was mid course of chemo, they could not finish the course as I had been given the maximum dosage allowable and the dose I had received that day would be my last.

I was still extremely ill at that point and he then proceeded to tell me that all that they were switching to a palliative care plan – they could keep me comfortable and control my pain. As if that was not a harsh enough reality, he then went on to say that in his estimation, I had at most 2 weeks to live. I don’t even think it took me more than a minute to react, and I told him that I did not believe him and that on the off chance he was right, I was not spending my last 2 weeks in the hospital in a drug induced haze. I left against medical advice. That was, and is, the last night I have ever spent in ANY hospital.

Two weeks came and went, then 3, 4, 5 and 6 weeks and I was no worse, yet no better, but still no worse. My blood work at 7 weeks post release showed small signs of improvement and by 9 weeks, I was in full remission and have been ever since. I still have a whole list of residual medical issues as a result, but in the grand scheme of things and considering that I should not have made it to my 20th birthday (I am now 37!!) – I am happy to deal with (relatively speaking) ’nuisances’. It is my crowning achievement – I am more stubborn than death – literally.

Ever since my diagnosis, I have had a tenuous relationship with the number 17.  I Was diagnosed on the 17th at 17 yrs old. As I approached the 17th anniversary of my remission I prepared to mark the occasion in an enduring way that would remind me daily that I am in charge of my destiny and  that all battles are first won in your heart and your head – NOT your immune system. I am now the proud wearer of the most fantastic and huge tattoo. It is inspired by images that to me represent my rebirth and the world that is. In addition, to being my favorite word in the English language, my personal motto – syncopation. Musically speaking it means to play against the beat, to defy expectation. It is my solemn pledge that I will live the rest of my many years in a constant state of syncopation 🙂

Sara P
Submitted 7-18-2012

The informational content of this article is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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