I was diagnosed with Acute Myoblastic Leukemia on April 3rd, 2017. I was transferred from Southern Maryland ER to Georgetown University Hospital in the Pediatric Unit. At 18 years old, my journey of surviving began.
It began when I was feeling very faint and fatigued on April 2nd. The season was changing, so I blamed a lot of my unknown leukemia symptoms on my seasonal allergies. I was having 6-7 asthma attacks a day and was tired with a constant headache for almost two weeks.
Everyone knows your Mom is usually your first doctor. Well, my mom, was, and continues to be, my best doctor.
My care team informed my mom of the severity of my diagnosis. She figured out ways to make sure I never felt uncomfortable. Suffering from chemo brain, my Mom spent almost every day giving me things to remember to exercise my brain to keep me up to speed with my own thoughts.
My treatment plan was four rounds of aggressive chemo every 28 days. My Mom and I were actively involved in my care. I gave my own personal suggestions along the way. Being involved with my care and being vocal was empowering. I was not afraid to say “No” or make suggestions.
I appreciated my wonderful doctors: Dr. Pinto and Dr. Gonzales who welcomed me with open arms, my amazing care team full of art therapists, case workers, my beautiful nurses who glowed and woke me up as early as first their shift change to take blood & vitals. Even my anesthesiologist made things fun and then there was my child life specialist, Jess, and last but not least, my support system.
I gained a family with Georgetown, the Washington Mystics and Hope for Henry –who were all part of my recovery and who made the opportunity possible to meet my favorite basketball player.
Chemo has affected me physically but has never changed my drive and passion to live life. It may have blocked my shot at living a normal life at 18, but I had an entire team who were, and continue to be, dedicated to grabbing the rebound and passing me my life back — giving me another shot at life’s game. #kalanistrong
In June 2018, Kalani agreed to speak at the 3rd Annual CCF Research Symposium, and shared her experience with the researchers and clinicians attending. Click here to watch her presentation.