May 14, 2014
by Jamie Baker
“After finishing every round of chemotherapy, I told my mom that I felt like a train had hit me. It was absolutely grueling.”
Born and raised in Northern Kentucky, this beautiful 22 year old, McKenzie Hicks, has been through absolute hell fighting for her life. Cancer interrupted her active life at the age of 19. When she got to head back to college, she pursued her pediatric oncology nursing degree. Her scans in the summer of 2013 showed that she had relapsed and so it began and still continues – round 2 with lymphoma. McKenzie is a fighter. Please read her story below and join McKenzie and me in our mission to put a stop to cancer. We can do this!
Written by McKenzie Hicks. In February of 2011, I was diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 19 years old. I went through 6 months of chemotherapy and radiation, and on August 10, 2011 I was declared in remission. I finished 2 years of nursing school (working towards my BSN degree), but on July 10, 2013, at 22 years old, I relapsed. I went through 4 rounds of chemotherapy, which consisted of being admitted for 5 days every 3 weeks, and it was an extremely harder regimen than the first time I went through chemotherapy. After finishing every round of chemotherapy, I told my mom that I felt like a train had hit me. It was absolutely grueling. My doctors and I had agreed that I needed a BMT (bone marrow transplant). Fortunately, my identical twin sister graciously offered to be my donor, and on November 8th I had my bone marrow transplant. This was honestly the hardest thing I have ever endured in my life. A week before my transplant, I was given “high-dose” chemotherapy which completely broke my body down. I was always nauseas and vomiting and in so much pain. Once the transplant had finished, I was put on a pain pump. As shown through laboratory work, my body had started to compensate and I was almost rushed to the ICU (intensive care unit). However, miraculously through prayer and support my body started to “wake up,” work properly, and start to heal. I was hospitalized for a total of 34 days. During these 34 days I was placed on TPN (total parenteral nutrition), had to learn how to swallow again, had to learn how to walk again, and maintain my normal blood levels. The BMT was literally the hardest thing I have ever gone through in my entire life. I felt like a newborn baby, and had to learn how to do everything 21 year olds are capable of doing. Then in February, I went through 20 treatments of radiation, which were 5 days a week for a month. It has been a long recovery, but through love and support I finally feel like I’m getting back to normal. I get scanned again after the 4th of July to see if I am in remission.
There is no possible way that I would have been able to go through so many treatments to save my life without community support. My mother took off work so she could be with me all of the time, and we are so fortunate that friends and family stepped up and set up community funds for us. That is why it is so essential to donate money to the LLS and other organizations, because cancer is expensive. The money raised for such wonderful organizations are going towards research to find a CURE so no one else has to experience this lifestyle. I am 22 years old, but I don’t get to act like a 22 year old because I am still dependent on my family, and I couldn’t even graduate college with my twin sister this past year because I had to take a year off of college. Cancer is scary and it changes your life completely; but with everyone’s help from donating to cancer funds a cure CAN be found! Most importantly, no one deserves to fight alone!
Apr 13, 2014
by Jamie Baker
2 out of 3. 40-50%. Statistics I have not forgotten. Within just a couple days of being diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 21, I looked up the chances of survival. I wanted to know if I would get to finish college. Get a job. Get married. Raise a family. I found that 2 out of 3 patients go into remission after the first round of chemo and 40-50% of those are cured. Simple math told me I had a ~27-33% chance of survival. Tough stuff but having no knowledge of survival statistics prior to that moment, I was quite relieved to see that I had any chance at all. And I was determined to increase that survival rate by kicking cancer’s a$$.
A couple months into my treatment, I ventured to that famous webpage – www.google.com. I typed in ‘acute myelogenous leukemia’ and hit Enter. Here is what I blogged that night –
“I figured that statistics wouldn’t bother me at this point since I am on the road of recovery. Well, I was wrong. Not that the statistics are bad. And every website I went to listed favorable and unfavorable characteristics and mine all fell in the favorable column… age, sex, type of chemo, etc. But I came across some studies that are currently being performed by different medical professors and those were kinda scary. Some of them were quite skeptical about the current treatment methods and their graphs and charts were intimidating. Surprisingly, I handled all this a lot better than I thought. After googling for a while, I closed my computer, went upstairs and asked God to keep the positive news coming. I told him I’m not ready to go home. Not now, or next year, or in five years, or in fifty years.”
I share this with you because I want you to know that patients are watching. They are holding on to hope that the research will continue and that those numbers will rise. According to LLS, patients diagnosed with AML have an overall five-year relative survival rate of 24.5%. I had to take a deep breath after looking up that number just now. THAT’S NOT HIGH ENOUGH! Children younger than 15 years old have a total averaged five-year relative survival rate of 64.2%. THAT’S NOT HIGH ENOUGH! THEY'RE CHILDREN.
You can read below to see how LLS is changing the face of blood cancers and many other cancers and diseases. Thank you to the 300+ people who have contributed to my Woman of the Year campaign thus far. For those fighting now and those who will get diagnosed and benefit from the $5 or $10 or $250 you were able to give, thank you. You are making a difference. If you haven’t contributed yet, know that your donation would be so appreciated. We need your help to make someday, today. Any amount takes us closer.
Apr 07, 2014
by Jamie Baker
The following conversation was on AOL Instant Messenger late at night in October of 2006. It was just a couple days after I had been diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia at the age of 21. The lights were off for the night and I was laying in my hospital bed trying to be quiet so that my mom could sleep on her cot. Jonathan, my then boyfriend of 1.5 years (and now fiancée), had just finished up a long day of classes and homework back at UD. He would work so hard during the week so that his weekends could be spent an hour south of our college campus with me at this hospital. This was one of our very private moments in conversation about my illness. We are sharing it to help you connect to this cause and understand why it is my biggest passion in life to help find a cure for cancer. Someday HAS TO BE today. Help me make it happen. Any donation helps us get there. Make yours today.
Jbaamkieer (12:47:42 AM): i cant believe i have cancer
jmrUD10510 (12:49:09 AM): it's unreal
jmrUD10510 (12:49:31 AM): but you are doing what you have to do to get rid of it
Jbaamkieer (12:49:38 AM): i know, but still
Jbaamkieer (12:49:55 AM): why me
jmrUD10510 (12:49:57 AM): what?
jmrUD10510 (12:50:34 AM): look at the positive things happening around you
Jbaamkieer (12:51:11 AM): i know i know, but sometimes when i sit here i start to wonder if i fill myself up with false hope...and i wonder if im puttin on an act for everyone so that they are okay, and so that ur ok
Jbaamkieer (12:52:09 AM): i mean physically i do feel fine...but deep inside this is without a doubt the hardest thing ever
Jbaamkieer (12:52:28 AM): to know that my body is filled with cancer
Jbaamkieer (12:52:35 AM): CANCER!
Jbaamkieer (12:52:49 AM): thats not supposed to happen!!!!
Jbaamkieer (12:53:30 AM): and i didnt even do anything to cause it
jmrUD10510 (12:55:02 AM): what act are you putting on?
jmrUD10510 (12:55:11 AM): that everything is fine?
Jbaamkieer (12:55:23 AM): i dont know, that my spirits are sky high
Jbaamkieer (12:55:31 AM): they are sometimes
Jbaamkieer (12:55:33 AM): but not all the time
Jbaamkieer (12:56:04 AM): and i tell my mom its okay to leave me....but i say those things bc i want everyone to able to resume their lives
Jbaamkieer (12:56:59 AM): i dont want all this attention...it makes me feel like im distracting ppl from what they need to get done...im exhausting my mom
jmrUD10510 (12:57:50 AM): babe, nobody is ready for this to happen
jmrUD10510 (12:59:12 AM): the one thing I know for sure is dwelling on the negative is only going to lead to more negative
Jbaamkieer (12:59:45 AM): babe this is the first time ive let out the negative
Jbaamkieer (12:59:50 AM): pls just let me get it out
jmrUD10510 (1:00:02 AM): I am not judging you
jmrUD10510 (1:00:07 AM): I hate AIM
jmrUD10510 (1:00:27 AM): We can't have serious conversations on here
Jbaamkieer (1:00:52 AM): i know, but i cant talk on the phone, i want my mom to sleep
jmrUD10510 (1:01:36 AM): There is so much I want to say but don't know how to say it on here
jmrUD10510 (1:02:18 AM): anything I would say in person would not translate well
Jbaamkieer (1:03:26 AM): i know its best to focus on the positive
jmrUD10510 (1:07:45 AM): I don't know what your mindset is on all of this
Jbaamkieer (1:08:00 AM): all of what?
jmrUD10510 (1:08:33 AM): I don't know whether you just want to vent or whether you are actually down in the dumps
Jbaamkieer (1:08:42 AM): both
Jbaamkieer (1:12:32 AM): i am constantly fighting this monster... i sometimes sit and say to myself, "omg i have cancer" which i think is healthy in some respect bc i cant act like this is a dream
Jbaamkieer (1:13:24 AM): i tend to wonder, at night time, if im putting on an act when ppl walk in my room...i dont know if im really feeling so positive, i feel kinda fake sometimes
jmrUD10510 (1:14:08 AM): be fake if you have to be, this isn't going to last
jmrUD10510 (1:14:27 AM): pretend like you don't have until you don't have it
Jbaamkieer (1:15:04 AM): yea but at night it seems like ive bottled it up all day
Jbaamkieer (1:15:10 AM): and i get like this
jmrUD10510 (1:15:48 AM): what emotions have you bottled up?
Jbaamkieer (1:16:13 AM): being scared for my life, being nervous about wakin up tomorrow
I want to share more about my rollercoaster ride with cancer as this campaign continues. For now I thank you for taking time to read this update and encourage you to join me in making a difference in the fight against cancer.
Feb 05, 2014
WHAT’S THIS ALL ABOUT? Saving lives!
This is a campaign organized by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) to raise funds for therapies and treatments to help save lives TODAY. Candidates, like me, compete by collecting votes (1 dollar = 1 vote) and the candidate with the most votes wins the title of Man or Woman of the Year! No matter the outcome, we all win by contributing to A CURE!
WHY AM I DOING THIS? Because I’m restless for a cure.
On October 11, 2006 at the age of 21, I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. Hearing those words… “We found blasts in your blood which tells me we might be dealing with some form of leukemia”… was shocking, heartbreaking and scary. The diagnosis interrupted my 4th year at the University of Dayton and had me in and out of the hospital for 5 months. It was a rollercoaster ride you never want to go on. I was fortunate to have a treatment plan that worked, consisting of chemotherapy drugs called Idarubicin and ARA-C. ARA-C entered hospitals in the late 1960s and the entrance of Idarubucin was more recent: 1990!! Cancer research and implementation efforts not even 2 decades before diagnosis made my second chance at life possible. Very recently I celebrated my 7th remission anniversary. We need the cure now so that everyone struck by cancer can celebrate year after year of remission with me.
WHAT SUCCESSES HAVE THESE EFFORTS MADE TO DATE? Here are some encouraging facts I’d like to share! ** LLS is changing the face of blood cancer! **
- Survival rates for blood cancers have DOUBLED, TRIPLED and in some cases QUADRUPLED because of LLS's continued advancements over the years.
- Many of LLS supported therapies not only help blood cancer patients but are now used to treat patients with rare forms of stomach and skin cancers.
- LLS supported therapies are even being tested in clinical trials for patients with a range of cancers including lung, brain, breast, pancreatic and prostate cancers.
- LLS funded drugs like Gleevec, Sprycel, Arinza, Tasigna and Zolinza are now being tested for patients with other non-cancerous diseases like Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis.
All donations are greatly appreciated and are tax deductible. They'll not only support LLS research but patient services, advocacy, public and professional education, and community services as well.
Please visit my Web site often and bring friends who would also like to donate!
On behalf of blood cancer patients everywhere I sincerely thank you for your support!
Want to know more?
For more information about LLS, please visit www.lls.org.