Amanda & Geoff Ball
I am a CML survivor, diagnosed in 2006
In September of 2006, when I was 23, I started to feel terrible while losing weight at a rapid pace. I had just finished university, and had accepted my first teaching job. I was hospitalized when the doctors realized that my spleen was huge, and in that time I was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML). I had to bow out of my first teaching job because of my illness, but when I was well enough to return, a 6th grade teacher from the school retired, and I was able to take over his position. After learning about my diagnosis, my husband Geoff and I learned that we wouldn’t be able to have children because of my CML and the medications that were available at that time. In 2011, we adopted our son, Jadyn, who was 1 and half at the time. In 2014, when my CML was at undetectable levels, we decided to try to have and have a child. Our daughter Mary joined our family in 2015. It was a really hard, high-risk pregnancy, with injections every day, but now we have a beautiful family of four.
Geoff: For me the most challenging part of our experience with blood cancer was that what was happening to Amanda was out of my control. I wished it was me that had gotten the diagnosis. When we heard the projections of her diagnosis, and learning that we wouldn’t be able to have a family was also really difficult. I just wanted to take it all away from her. Amanda has been so strong through everything. I’m so proud of her.
Amanda: The most challenging part has been the emotional side of things. When I was in the hospital waiting for my diagnosis, everyone kept hoping it would be CML, because it’s one of the ‘better’ types of leukemia. In some ways when I learned it was CML, I was relieved, but it was still a cancer diagnosis. I’m so thankful that I’m doing well right now, but I worry about what may happen in the future. It’s a door that could open at some point and that is challenging. There’s also the side effects of treatment which have an impact on my life. I also struggle a bit with feeling like I fit in with the blood cancer community, as I haven’t had a stem cell transplant or a bone marrow transplant. In so many ways my CML is a part of me, sometimes it’s invisible to those around me who don’t know, but at Light The Night I’m proud to walk. I want people to know that you can live with cancer.
Amanda: Walking into the ‘Circle of Survivors’ feels so empowering. It’s so special to get the white rose at the end of the walk every year. The first year we walked my mom and my sister said that is was so important that I attend the walk. That first year we raised almost $10,000. The whole family supported me, it was amazing. I really felt like we were part of something bigger then ourselves.
Geoff: Light the Night is a refresher, it’s an evening of remembrance, an evening where you set aside whatever you’re doing to give back to the blood cancer community. There are so many distractions in life, but on this one evening you get to focus on something important. I also have a cousin who is in remission from ALL (she's doing well). Light The Night has become a ritual for us. I’m also so happy with how Light The Night has progressed and moved forward since we walked for the first time in 2006. We are so grateful for all the work that goes into Light The Night, we recognize the work of the LLSC team. The 'Survivor' Shirts and the lanterns are also so important to us. We learned about Light The Night from a poster or a nurse on the unit at the hospital. For someone directly or indirectly affected, to see all the people come together at the walk is incredible. The feeling you get being surrounded by all the people, to see everyone raising funds and bring awareness – it’s impactful. We are also thankful for Light The Night because it’s like a squeaky wheel that reminds us that if Amanda had been diagnosed earlier in life that the outcome could have been different. We are so grateful for what the LLSC team does, that the funds support research. We don’t want anyone to go through what we have. For all of us to be at Light The Night, giving others a sense of hope as well. We want to empower others that are currently going through treatment. Carrying a Light The Night Lantern is like seeing Canadian Flag on the backpack of a fellow traveler in Thailand. There is an instant visible connection with others.
Amanda: My life would have been different if I didn’t have CML. Support the LLSC through Light The Nights is a way for me to continue living. There’s always something new happening in research that helps people like myself. Seeing the white balloons, well, white lanterns now, that’s how long we’ve been walking, makes me feel like we are all in this together. That we are empowered by the community in the best way possible. Seeing the number of white lanterns grow over the years is also encouraging, more people are here, more people are surviving, and that is powerful and uplifting.