Christina's Medical & College Fund
I was diagnosed at 24 years old with AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia). I thought I had everything figured out. I graduated with several sets of honors from Kean University in 2011 with a B.A. in Communication Studies with a minor in Marketing. I had been working since I was 14 years old, and was recruited to work full-time as an Inside Sales Representative for a decorated apparel company after graduation in 2011. I was promoted to a Sales & Merchandising Specialist for our Special Markets division and traveled to trade shows all around the country. I had it all. I was wrong. While traveling in Orlando, FL for the Baseball Winter Meetings, I fell ill with the flu. I was rushed to the ER the night before returning to NJ. The ER doctor provided me with my blood work results and was concerned with my WBC. He wanted to admit me to run more tests. Not having any friends or family in the area, I signed myself out of the hospital and was released. I saw my PCP a few days later with the test results in my hand. No doubt, I had the flu, but he was wary about the low WBC (white blood count). He told me not to be concerned, and we should check it again in about two months or so. I carried on with my hectic work/life schedule, enjoyed the holidays with my friends and family, and continued to travel for work. I was never one to get sick, so I knew when I had contracted a sinus infection from an ill colleague the week before one of my last big trips of our "tradeshow season", I found myself at the doctors. He asked if we could repeat the blood work that had been done back in December, and I rolled my eyes and mumbled "I guess, I'm already here." I knew if I had to come back, I would have to pay ANOTHER co-pay, and I didn't want that. College does not guarantee a great income. I worked hard to obtain my degree, and I felt what I was earning for all my hardwork was not neary sufficient. But, that's another story. After crying like a baby because I didn't like needles ( no really, who likes needles?!), my blood was drawn, I got my script for an antibiotic, and I was on my way. I received a phone call while in Dallas, and it was my PCP. He told me that my results were in, and the WBC was still low. He asked that I have it checked one last time when I return. Still not knowing what the cause could be, I just agreed and went about my day. I knew better than to go WebMD because internet always equals "I'm dying!" When I returned, I again went to have my blood drawn. This next phone call was not what I had expected to hear. The counts are still low, you should really go see a Hematologist, Oncologist. I was like "Um, ok? " What 24 yr. old is thinking CANCER? He told me not to think about the oncology part as much as hematology. Most hematologists are oncologists my doctor reassured me. So again, I went about my day, called and made an appointment for the end of March. March 27th, 2014. Strangest day of my life, walking into an Oncology office at a hospital. I was the youngest patient there. Well yeah, because cancer is for old people, right? WRONG. Cancer can affect anyone. Age doesn't matter. Cancer does not discriminate. After countless hours in this office, it was determined I needed a bone marrow biopsy to understand what was causing this low WBC. Good thing there was no cell service in this room because I probably would not have gone back if I searched this procedure. The doctor was great and walked me through the entire procedure and told me I was healthy. WRONG AGAIN. I was told I should have preliminary results within a day or so, and the full diagnosis in a week. I shrugged my shoulders and called my boss. I was not going into work at this hour. Friday, March 28th, 2014. A day I will never forget. I went to work like any other day, had a great lunch with my colleagues, and was looking forward to the weekend. I had just returned from lunch and began answering emails that had come through while I was away from my desk. My desk phone rang, and it resembled the number of the oncology office I was at the previous day. So I picked up like I would any other number I was unsure of, and I was right. I was asked how I was feeling and where I was. I told the nurse that I was at work just returning to my desk from lunch. She asked me how far work was and how soon I could get to the office. I told her that it was about 20 minutes give or take and that if it could wait, I'd come after work. She told me I needed to come now, and if it was a problem, she would talk to my boss. I told her no problem, I'll handle and that I would see her soon. YUP, BAD NEWS. We all know it is never good when they can't tell you on the phone. Still, not thinking cancer. My boss was a mess and ended up driving me to the doctors office (even though I insisted all was fine and my mother was meeting me). No one is ever prepared to receive the news "I'm sorry, you have cancer." My first thought and words out of my mouth were, "Is it terminal?" Thankfully, my diagnose was not a death sentence (how I mentally thought), and my next was where do you begin with this? She proceeded to tell me that she didn't specialize in my type of leukemia and that I needed to get to RWJ in New Brunswick ASAP. She already called and had me meeting with who would be my life-saver, and oncologist and team. The next six months were a blur. I took on a pediatric protocol/trial due to my young age, and went from there. I can't even describe the issues that arose from such powerful drugs. I received a bone marrow transplant in September 2015. I have not been able to return to work, and have since lost my job. I've been on COBRA, and it practically costs what I receive in disability. My medical bills are astronomical and I have nothing left. Thank god for my wonderful support team (family, friends and all that have come into my life because of my illness). Although, their love and support does not pay the bills. I had cancer, but it doesn't define me. I am determined to do great things with the knowledge and power I have received with this life-altering diagnosis. I have returned to school to study to be a nurse. I have applied for scholarships and financial aid, but because I already have a B.A., I was awarded nothing. I'm struggling to get by with the little assistance I receive from Social Security, and any help to achieve my dream as a nurse and pay off my medical bills would be greatly appreciated. Thank you to all that read this.
Much love always,
Much love always,
Love & prayers,