August 21st, 2002 is a day I’ll never forget. Walking through the doors of the Montreal Children’s Hospital, I had no idea my life would change just a few short hours later. It was that day that Dr. Mitchell diagnosed me with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.
Being only 12 years old, I had no comprehension of the gravity of what this diagnosis actually meant. The reality was that this type of leukemia was very rare in children, and most common in adults aged 60 and over. The treatment plan hadn’t changed in decades and my family and I were warned of the toxicity of the chemotherapy treatments I was to receive. However, it was my only chance.
That night, my brother Joey, who was 15 years old, came to talk to me. We decided to make a pact, and not tell our parents. “Alyssa, I will make the Midget AAA hockey team if you beat cancer,” Joey said. He knew I couldn’t resist a competition against my big brother!
On August 23rd, just two days later, I was admitted and administered my first dose of chemotherapy. I was in complete isolation with no contact to the outside world. I was very lucky to have my mother take time off work to stay with me day and night. She prepared my meals, helped me when I was nauseous and helped me through the roughest moments. My father, who had to take care of my brother and the house, would come and visit every single night after work. I knew he was exhausted, but he never missed a night!
After a month of treatment, my immune system started rebuilding. On October 1st, I received the news that the cancer had NOT come back and I was in remission!! Oh, and I had held up my end of the pact with my brother…who also ended up making the hockey team!
After 6 months of isolation, I was finally released from the hospital.
I am grateful to all the nurses, doctors and other support I received while in treatment. They made everything so much easier to deal with.
My family and friends always made sure we were all taken care of and offered support on those dark days.
Today, I am celebrating 16 years in complete remission!
My experience with cancer opened my eyes to a whole new community of those who were battling like me. My family and I became heavily involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada through fundraising, and we just reached our million dollar mark!!
I now dedicate my life to help others fight their battle as a proud staff member of the Montreal office!
A very close family friend, John Marcovecchio, once quoted Sir Winston Churchill: “You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”