Hi. My name is Jorie Elliott. I am a grade 10 student from Kincardine, Ontario where I live with my mom (Sheryl), dad (Jeff) and my eighteen year old brother, Jarrett. I am crazy about two things – turtles and sports.
Most people know me as the girl who petitioned to install Turtle Crossing signs in the Kincardine area. But others know me because I play a lot of sports – seven different sports on ten different teams in one year. I was even voted Junior Athlete at Kincardine District Secondary School in 2012 in grade 9. All this came to a screeching halt on January 9th of this year when I was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia. My family returned from a winter vacation in the Dominican Republic at midnight on a Friday and I resumed my busy sporting schedule on Saturday playing hockey and training to play for the newly formed Bruce County competitive volleyball team. On Saturday morning, I began to realize I had some strange symptoms – I had lost some weight, I had an infection on my calves that wasn’t going away, and I had bruises on my body. I had read the novel, "My Sister’s Keeper" and knew that bruises were a sign of Leukemia so I mentioned it to my mom. She thought I was crazy! On Monday, my hockey trainer, who also happens to be my Aunt and a Nurse Practitioner, saw my bruises and encouraged my mom to take me to my family doctor to get checked out. I went to the Doctor on Tuesday.
I had the blood work and ultrasound on Wednesday morning and the doctor called an hour or so later and told us we needed to go to London. My mom and dad and I packed a few things and headed off to Victoria Hospital. We realize now that the doctors knew by the initial blood results that I had Leukemia. I was admitted to hospital and over the next few days, I had more tests including a bone marrow biopsy and a lumbar puncture to find out what type of Leukemia I had and then a procedure to insert a central line.
There are two main types of Leukemia – ALL and AML. Acute Promyeloctyic Leukemia is a rare form of AML. The average age of people who get the type of Leukemia I have is 40 and the success rate for treatment is 85% after the first week. They say after the first week because there is a high risk of complications from bleeding at this time. I made it through this risky period with no complications.
My treatment protocol consists of an initial one month round of chemotherapy in hospital, then a three month round of out-patient chemotherapy and then two three-week rounds of inpatient chemotherapy. The out-patient chemotherapy is performed in the Pediatric Medical Day Unit at London Health Science Centre. While I had these treatments, I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House. I just completed this six month period of IV chemotherapy and am now in the maintenance phase which is two years of oral chemotherapy and I will return to London at least once a month to have check-ups and tests such as blood work and bone marrow biopsies.
We are grateful for the support we have received from the Ronald McDonald House. My parents stayed in the house while I was in hospital and I stayed in the house myself for almost three months. It was really great for us to have a "home away from home". I was honored to be chosen to be featured on the posters and other print media for McHappy Day. It was great to be able to help out by allowing people to hear my story.
Since my diagnosis my family and friends have been working to raise awareness about childhood cancer and Leukemia in particular while actively fundraising through the #turtlesforjorie campaign. Concentrating on giving back has helped distract us all from the challenges of cancer treatment. Finding out I had cancer was quite a shock because overall, I still felt healthy.
It was hard to have to leave school for six months but I was able to keep up with my studies through independent learning with the support of my school and will enter grade 11 with my friends. When I was diagnosed, my doctor told me he would get me back to playing sports at the end of 2013. I am happy to report that he underestimated my love of sports. I returned to the rink in February and played four games of hockey while in treatment. I am told I looked a bit like Bambi at the start but doing things I would normally do has really helped me to stay positive throughout my treatment. I even got a job in April and have been working a shift a week when I am able and I am currently playing soccer. And despite what my doctor said, I have every intention of playing all of my sports this fall!
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