Note to readers: This story includes some mild profanity.
There are two mindsets you can have with cancer treatment: You can be really negative and grumpy and pissed at the world, or you can try to find the silver lining. Writing a blog has helped me find my silver lining. Through my writing, I’ve tried to show that even though I have a cancer story, I’m still the same person. I’ve lost a lot of friends who couldn’t deal with the realities of cancer, and I’ve gained a lot of new friends I never would have met otherwise. Yes, cancer has changed my life, but I’m still Cam. To give you an idea how writing helps me, here’s an excerpt from my blog – The Chronicles of Cam:
Cancer will make you cynical. Don’t let it.
There’s so much more to life. So, what if I lost a bit of muscle mass and weight? So what if I don’t have hair? Those who care don’t matter, and those who matter don’t care. The world is a good place, and there are good people out there to meet. You gotta go through some suffering to truly appreciate real happiness and joy. It’s easy to get caught up in the social norms and focus on how you just don’t quite fit in. It’s easy to view the world as this damned place and that life isn’t fair.
But I say to hell with fitting in. I want to break these norms and show that we are beautiful regardless of what mold we try to fit into. There is no mold for unique. I am beautiful with or without cancer. You are beautiful with or without X, Y and Z. We all just have to stick together.
When I wrote this, I had just two rounds of chemo to go and I was thrilled that my cancer journey was finally ending. Little did know that my leukemia would return, and that the second time around, the drugs wouldn’t be able to beat it. I was running out of options. That’s when I came to Seattle Children’s to join Dr. Rebecca Gardner’s CAR T immunotherapy clinical trial.
Hello, Seattle Children’s
From the very first day I arrived in Seattle, I felt cared for — the hospital is like one giant support network. Dr. Gardner even called to check on me while she was away on vacation! Honestly, as terrible as the situation was, it was a really positive experience. I loved all my doctors and nurses and, more importantly, I trusted them. The only downside was that chicken nuggets weren’t on the hospital menu … LOL!
My radiation and chemo treatments may cause osteoporosis, cataracts, high cholesterol or heart problems later in life. Thanks to new safer cancer treatments like immunotherapy, kids with a leukemia diagnosis will have a much more direct path to freedom. One day soon, they can skip all the chemo and radiation and go straight to immunotherapy, which is much easier on the body. Just two days after my CAR T immunotherapy treatment, I was able to run a mile! I was so ready to get back to my regular life. I would go back and do CAR T a million times over because my quality of life was THAT good afterwards.
You are the backbone of cancer research
To all the people who donate to cancer research, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. CAR T immunotherapy trials wouldn’t happen without heroes like you who support Strong Against Cancer, a national fundraising push to develop cures for childhood cancers. You are the backbone of cancer research. Without you, I wouldn’t be here … literally. Every day you are helping to spearhead new ways to cure the disease.
Long and winding path to freedom
Unfortunately, my cancer story didn’t end with CAR T. Once again, my body refused to take a direct path to freedom. The new T cells – my fighter cells that were reengineered to kill the cancer – did their job swiftly and I was in remission in just 10 days. But then, shortly after that, they packed their bags and left my system for some reason. Dr. Gardner explained that the faster the T cells leave the body, the more likely patients are to relapse, so I needed a bone marrow transplant. I was super worried at first, but luckily, we found the perfect match and I’m more hopeful than ever that this is the very last mile of my cancer journey.
I had my bone marrow transplant in June of 2018, and I was discharged four weeks later. Today, I’m feeling happy to be alive and only mildly fatigued. I’m back in California with my mom and our great neighbors enjoying the beach and exploring new hiking trails.
What’s up next for me? I can’t wait to get back to college. You know, I’m even looking forward to finals! I’m behind in my classes, but I’ve been working with my advisor and I should have a diploma in Natural Resource Tourism in just a couple of years. I’m already dreaming about what to put on my cap and gown … something like, “Beat cancer twice – let’s do this!”