Hi! My name is Maria Lovsin, and I am a childhood cancer survivor of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. I was diagnosed on May 29, 2012, at 13. The beginning of my cancer journey was odd as my symptoms presented abnormally and unfortunately puzzled doctors, leading me to many different diagnoses before hearing the truth about my illness. For two and a half months, I experienced excruciating, and I honestly mean excruciating, pain in my legs and lower back to the point where I could not walk and had lost a dangerous amount of weight. Daily trips to the emergency room to receive an answer were the norm, with many doctors either telling me that they did not know what was wrong with me or that I would need to live with the pain. The cancer had been growing in my bone marrow, and every blood test would come back clean; hence, cancer had never crossed anyone's mind. I was finally referred to a Rheumatoid specialist to see if this pain was a severe case of Rheumatoid Arthritis and was finally sent for an MRI. In the famous words of Augustus Waters…. I lit up like a Christmas tree…everywhere. When referred to the Oncology Clinic at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, I neither understood the word "Oncology" nor knew I would soon receive the truth about what was causing the unbearable pain. Reflecting on this experience now, as in shock that I was with the diagnosis, I almost gained a sense of relief that I was indeed experiencing this pain and finally got an answer. 13 years old and now a childhood cancer patient…it was not the way I wished to finish off my school year, but man was I ready to fight!
My family and I were beyond fortunate to have the support we did from numerous organizations and Light the Night will always be an organization close to my heart. My first Light the Night walk with team LOVstrong will be one that I will never forget, as many family and friends joined our team, and I had just gotten out of the hospital that day and could walk for most of the event. You see, a week after my 14th birthday and two weeks before the event, I had a very rare reaction to one of my chemotherapy drugs, which resulted in me experiencing stroke-like symptoms and being the 17th individual in the world to experience this type of reaction. This was the most terrifying day of my life and something that I am continuing to work through. However, after experiencing this rare reaction, I was still determined to participate in the walk! With the support from my family and friends and convincing my Oncologist, I was discharged on the day of the walk. I felt a breeze of empowerment as I walked most of the walk (with some help from my wheelchair) and celebrated coming together with family for this beautiful cause. This was the first big event that many of my family and friends could come together to raise awareness for blood cancer and allow many folks to see me for the first time in a while. That day will always have a special place in my heart.
Since that day, Light the Night has been a tradition with my family and with the wonderful support from my high school, LOVstrong has grown to SACHSstrong as I was still in treatment when attending my first year at SACHS. It was very comforting knowing that my many new peers, teachers, and staff had my back and wished to participate in this walk to support my and many others' journey with cancer!
I completed treatment just after my 16th birthday and have been in remission ever since! My journey with cancer is something that I continue to heal and learn from, and I know there is much more growing to do. I am currently studying for my Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy in Adelaide, Australia and aspire to one day return home and help children and their families heal from their journeys with cancer.