Hi everyone. My name is Lia. I’m 15 years old.
When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with cancer - Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL for short. My family was devastated. For nearly three years, I went through a lot of treatments including chemotherapy to battle my leukemia. I lost my hair. I remember my dad and my uncles shaving their heads at the same time. I had more blood transfusions than I can count. I remember how the steroids I had to take made me crave all these crazy foods and how my grandparents, aunts and uncles ran all over the city trying to find me everything I wanted. I remember lots of pokes and jabs, but I also remember all the amazing, funny, and caring people that helped me through it all - the nurses, the doctors, my family, my friends. Everyone helped. No one gave up.
There’s a lot I don’t remember about those years that I’ve been told about after. Like how my oncologist told my parents I was lucky - that if I had been diagnosed ten years earlier I would have only had a 50% chance of survival. In my years of participation in Light The Night and other LLSC campaigns, I’ve come to learn a lot. Did you know that in the 60s a child diagnosed with the same cancer I had, Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, would have only had a 10% chance of survival? Today, the cure rate is nearly 90%. I’m astounded by the progress we’ve made in my lifetime.Today I’m 15 years old. This year marks the tenth anniversary since my treatment ended and the doctors told us that my chances of relapsing have dropped to less than 1% and they will stay there for the rest of my life.
This year, I’m heading into grade 11. I love school and art and I play hockey at one of the highest levels in the province. But most importantly, I live with gratitude every day for the kids who came before me, for the research done before my diagnosis and since my remission, and for all the incredible support I have had by my side each and every day.
I am old enough now to realize how lucky I am. I am lucky to have the support and love of family and friends. I am lucky that my parents had the freedom and the financial means to take the time off work to be with me - many families don’t have that luxury. I am lucky that there have been so many amazing people in my life fighting with me every step of the way. I am lucky to have benefitted from, and will continue to benefit from, the support of some incredible organizations such as the LLSC. And my parents always say that I am especially lucky to have benefitted from so many kids that came before me. From the research that has been done, and so many incredible services that have been created to support kids with cancer, their families and survivors like me.
From the time my brother and I were little my dad would read a poem to us called “The Champions Creed”. In it there is a line that has always stuck with me:
“Dedicate yourself to a mighty purpose.”
I can’t think of anything mightier than helping to beat childhood cancer. So, I feel responsible to do as much as I can for all the kids who are fighting this battle now and who will be fighting it in the future.This year as Co-Chair of Toronto’s Light The Night campaign I will do everything in my power to raise $100,000 so that we can achieve a 100% cure rate in my lifetime. We’ve come so far, and I believe my generation can play an important role to find a cure.