Elijah Tronti, 19

Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

"This is your fight, your victory, and even through it all you'll never be alone."

Okay, so first off, just know that I’m going to be trying to sum this is up as shortly as possible. I’ve had countless people tell me I could write a book about all I’ve been through, as I’m sure any cancer survivor could. And actually, let’s stop right there for a second. I’ve never liked using the term “cancer survivor.” That entails you made it through your sickness without taking much part in your victory. Like you just barely scraped by. No no no, I call myself a cancer conqueror, and I would encourage anyone with similar circumstances to do the same. This is your fight, your victory, and even through it all you’ll never be alone.

The diagnosis

Right! Now that I got that off my chest (thank you for indulging me) let’s get down to the more technical stuff, shall we? My type of cancer was ALL (Acute Lymphonic Leukemia). I was diagnosed in 2014 (15 years old). I still remember feeling pain in my leg, letting my parents know, and being unable to enjoy Christmas that year. I left school for Christmas break with the beginning of pain in that leg, but when school was starting again I never came back. I was already in the hospital. That was in the middle of my 10th grade year. I had no idea what was happening. I had no idea I was going to be spending 5 months in a row in that hospital, nor could I have predicted the 3 ½ years of a continual fight when I got out. I always knew cancer was serious, but honestly, I knew nothing about it at the beginning.

Scary side effects

Some of the most prominent side effects to my medications occurred during that original hospital stay. I found out my body has a bad reaction to some drugs I didn’t even know existed. It was a confusing time- to say the least. The hallucinations didn’t help. They began within a few weeks and must have persisted for the first few months or so, although that part is obviously a little… fuzzy. But even through all the blur I can still remember countless painful procedures, muscle spasms, and a deteriorating body. Eventually I developed neuropathy in both my legs and my hands as well. I was completely unable to walk and barely able to move- virtually paralyzed. My bed was pretty much my whole world for a while, until they moved me to a new bed. And a new one, and a new one, and a new one. Eventually I was practically brain dead as well. All I could do was sit up and drool, with foggy eyes. Nurses would regularly ask me if I knew who I was, where I am, etc. And clearly, I was never fully gone because I remember that myself. I don’t need anyone to tell me.

Lessons I have learned

Anyway, I’m not going to sugarcoat my experience it was a rough one- yet, if I could go back in time, cure my sickness before I even had it… I wouldn’t. If I could sum up my experience in one word it would be: humbling. It put into perspective how much respect each and every form of life deserves. From all those nurses who cared for me at my worst, to those poor children who most likely didn’t make it out of the hospital with me. We’re all in this crazy thing we call ‘life’ together, and I think this event in my life brought me closer to that much-needed realization. Not to mention it deepened my relationship with God (did I mention I’m a Christian?). Even at my worst, prayer proved to be stronger than any sickness that could take root in me. I should hope the next paragraph stands as a testament to that.

My mum being diagnosed with cancer

Now! Onto the more positive stuff: I was declared both cancer-free and chemo-free on Mother’s Day in 2017. EXACTLY Mother’s Day. So yes, that holiday is extra special to us now- my mom, by the way, who had breast cancer and helped take care of me in the hospital through the middle of her treatments, has also been chemo and cancer-free for some time now. Now in the summer of 2018 I even had my port removed, leaving a nice little scar (I’m 19 right now, making my whole experience a span of about 4 years). Also, for roughly 1 ½ years now I’ve been walking without the aid of a wheelchair or walker and my hands have been 100% functional for even longer (although none of my limbs will have the strength they once did). I was able to finish high school without having to redo much, and I just graduated my first year of college at CBU as well. My life has been a heck of a journey. I’d like to think the secret to enjoying it, even through the worst of times, is absorbing less and less of yourself and more and more of the people, hope, and faith that are all out there waiting to be grasped.

So! There you have it, my experience in short. I do hope you’ve been encouraged in some way. God bless you guys, and hey, let me tell you something:

            You ARE stronger than cancer. Don’t forget that anytime soon.

Love you all so much.