I Was Given This Disease Twice For A Reason
My name is Devin Duncan and I am an 18-year-old senior at Langham Creek High School. I am currently on the Bailadora drill team and am the reigning homecoming queen.
It would seem that I am a normal teenager, except for that I'm also a two-time cancer survivor.
When I was 3 years old, I was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent 2 1/2 years of chemotherapy treatment at Texas Children's Hospital.
Much to my surprise, I was diagnosed with the same form of cancer at 17 years old on February 18, 2010 after being in remission for 13 years. I am currently in the middle of another, more aggressive 2 1/2 year treatment plan full of over 20 inpatient hospital stays and numerous different chemos.
When it is complete, I will have undergone chemo treatments for over 25% of my life.
In the last year alone since being diagnosed, I have been either in the hospital or the outpatient clinic over 150 days. Texas Children's Hospital has become sort of a home away from home for me. This time around I will stay in the hospital for over 20 planned times for anything from 4 to 11 days. This isn't counting the times that I will and have gone in unplanned for fever and blood pressure issues.
Never have I gone to the hospital and felt scared or unwelcome. When I walk in I know that I will be smiled at and told hello by every person that I make eye contact with. My nurses, doctors, social workers, etc. have become family to me. I know that they always have my best interest at heart and are always looking to keep me secure and happy.
For example, this past weekend I had my Senior Prom.
Last Tuesday I was rushed to the emergency room with a fever. I was in the intensive care unit by Wednesday morning with a blood pressure close to 75/32. I received multiple blood and platelet transfusions and many bags of fluids and by Wednesday afternoon I was feeling much better.
On Thursday evening, I was put back onto the cancer floor of the hospital and was getting more and more anxious about prom. The entire time I was in the hospital every nurse and doctor I saw told me they were doing everything they could do to get me out in time to go.
One of the nurses in the ICU even came into work early to come visit me and give me a head piece she had made that would match my dress for the prom and take one thing off my list of things to do when I got home.
I was discharged from the hospital at 2 p.m. Friday and was fully dressed and taking pictures with my date by 5. To some, the stress of not being home all day and having to rush would have put a damper on their mood for prom.
But I thought of it differently.
There was actually something really special to me about being able to share such a special day in a high school girl's life with my second family at the hospital. I had nurses coming into my room all morning telling me that they couldn't wait to see pictures and they hoped I had a good night. They really did do everything that they could to get me out and I had one of the best nights of my life.
Unfortunately, prom day hasn't been the only time that I had been in the hospital when I didn't necessarily want to be. I was rushed to the ER on Christmas Eve this past year and ended up spending Christmas and the week after in the hospital with E.coli. I also spent Easter in the hospital the year before last. I never once felt alone or upset that I was there.
I truly believe that I was given this disease twice for a reason.
To spread hope and happiness to people in my same situation, to inspire people to live their lives as if tomorrow isn't promised and more importantly, to raise awareness of the hardships cancer patients face day to day.
It's places like Texas Children's Hospital that give us the strength to fight our fight day to day. Having cancer and being in the hospital has changed my life. I think that I am the person I am today partly because I survived cancer at such a young age.
Surviving cancer, enduring the pain and sickness of chemo, watching while our new best friend loses their battle, the uncertainty of what will happen to us, and the need for us to grow up more quickly than any child should, all mold cancer patients into who we are.
But it is the nurses and doctors that help us to have such positive attitudes. It is an honor to stand in front of you today and thank you on behalf of the rest of the cancer community for your outstanding support and contributions.
Thank you for realizing that the children that are battling this disease are not insignificant by any means. But more importantly, welcome to our family.
Lance Armstrong, when once asked about his cancer treatment, answered simply, "We have 2 options, medically and emotionally: give up, or fight like hell." It is people like you who give us the will to fight, the hope for a better tomorrow, and put us one step closer to finding a cure.