Two years ago, at age 11, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Within a few months, I underwent a bone marrow transplant and received my sister’s life-saving marrow. It has been a long and tough road, but Texas Children’s Hospital Cancer and Hematology Centers, specifically the Bone Marrow Transplant team, have taken excellent care of me and my family.
One of the most difficult things about the bone marrow transplant was being very isolated from the world around me. My immune system couldn’t handle any one else’s germs and I couldn’t risk getting any other illness while I was so weak. This challenge of isolation was not only a struggle for me, but other children that were fighting cancer too.
This June, I had the unique opportunity to go on the Children’s Grand Adventure in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I was very nervous because I didn’t know anyone, and my family wasn’t going with me. It was the first time I had ever spent that much time away from them and it was a long way to go. I didn’t let that stop me, and I am so glad I didn’t!
On July 6, I boarded a plane with several strangers – 8 other pediatric cancer fighters, 2 doctors and 2 counselors that were also pediatric cancer survivors. A few short hours later, by the time we landed they were my newest friends. Over the next 8 days, we hiked to see amazing views, canoed, rafted down the Snake River, went camping in Yellowstone National Park, saw Old Faithful, rode the tram up to the top of the mountain and so much more!
My favorite experience of the trip was the camping in Yellowstone National Park. We saw wild life in the actual wild – in their natural habitats! There was also a wolf and bear preserve for us to visit. I loved camping because it strengthened my bond with the other campers, mostly because we shared a tent! We got to tell scary stories and make delicious s’mores around the camp fire. It was a blast!
My most memorable highlight was meeting the most amazing man on the planet – Ranger Rick Makentire. He told us the most exciting, wonderful stories about the wolves in Yellowstone. My favorite story he told was about a small wolf that fought and defended himself against a much larger wolf. It was his favorite story because it reminded him of us campers. We were the underdogs in a tough fight against cancer, and we didn’t give up. I will always remember Ranger Rick and the stories he told us!
Since camp has ended, I still keep in touch with some of the campers that were there with me, because they are real and true friends. They know exactly what I’ve been through and understand me more than anybody… and always will. I want to send a heartfelt thank you to Texas Children’s Hospital and the Children’s Grand Adventure for sending all of us to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was one of the most amazing, beautiful and memorable experiences of my life.