“I wasn’t going to let cancer change me,” David says. At 17, David hadn’t been feeling hungry for a while. When he went in for a checkup, his doctor found something wrong with his blood. David was quickly sent to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford for tests. He was shocked to learn he had acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and would later be diagnosed with Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL). At a time when he should have been worrying about colleges and friends, suddenly David was fighting for his life. ”Is this it?” he thought.
David’s family knew what dying of cancer looked like: his brother had died of a brain tumor when he was only two. So David knew he had to fight HARD. It gave him strength knowing that his brother had gone through his cancer bravely, and he would have to do the same. So David faced cancer the same way he had always approached life – as a positive person with a winning attitude. “I knew I was bigger than my cancer and that I could beat it,” he says. “I always seemed to make the best of it by surrounding myself with positivity and trying to see the bright side of a situation.”
But is there a bright side to having cancer? David thinks there is.
“I began to realize what is really important in life,” he says. “I had been letting little things that didn’t matter get me down. Now I value every day of my life. I also realized my family is the most important thing to me.”
His twin sister donated her life-saving bone marrow for David’s transplant and David relied on his sense of humor to stay positive. “I wasn’t going to let cancer change me. I’d joke around like I normally did. I was always who I was,” he says.
David attributes part of his success in getting through these long hospital stays to the care of doctors and staff at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. “They showed so much respect to me. They treated me as an equal and even more importantly, as a friend, not just a patient,” David says.
David has also found support through his two hospital-based support groups, which focus “much less on what you have and more on who you are and your life,” he says. Today, David can be found at Packard visiting patients who are still fighting, and he plans to continue his work as a career, with a goal to become a Child Life Specialist