By Vince Miozzi, cancer survivor
I didn’t let my leukemia diagnosis upset me for long. I quickly realized that I didn’t have time to be upset. With my passion for sports, I decided to treat my leukemia like a football season. Sure, I’m most likely going to get knocked down a few times and yes, probably even lose a few games, but I will ultimately beat cancer and have a winning season.
Kicking cancer was my ultimate prize, but I wanted to get my life back as fast as I could. That meant I had to educate myself, train hard, and get moving. I remember the doctor coming in my room, and I said, “Okay, you have the chemo here; let’s get started.” I was anxious to be a winner. I wasn’t going to lose this battle.
My treatment ended up being far more horrible than I could’ve possibly imagined. I wasn’t prepared for the intensity of the drugs and procedures, and I was blitzed with side effects, including: avascular necrosis in my knees and feet, a blood clot in my brain, a stroke, short-term memory loss, weakness in my right hand, portal hypertension, low blood platelets, an enlarged spleen, liver damage, second degree burns in my mouth and esophagus. There was pneumonia and sepsis. I developed antibodies to my own blood platelets and one of my very necessary chemo drugs. The treatment was actually killing me.
I spent endless days in the hospital, holiday after holiday. I spent one Christmas in the ICU. Some days I couldn’t lift my head up from the pillow. Heck, there were days I couldn’t even open my eyes, no matter how much I wanted to. There was loneliness and isolation even though my friends and family were there for me all the time. But, I felt like I was watching so much pass me by. I couldn’t participate in the things I loved. I missed my family, my friends, playing football, singing in choir concerts, knowing what was going on at school. You never think you would miss eating in the school cafeteria, but I did.
I missed three years of school and had to continue my schooling through home instruction. However, through all of this, I never asked, “Why me?”
I never looked back. I wanted to move forward. I was not going to give cancer the satisfaction.
The harder it hit me, the harder I fought back. I had to retreat and re-group a lot. But I always made a new game plan and tried to come out swinging (difficult when you are too weak to lift your arms). I had to reroute my passion for football to helping coach the team. I put renewed passion into my love of singing and performing. I had time to pursue my interest in history and see it lead me to an interest in politics.
Thanks to the love and support of all of my friends, family, doctors, nurses, church, and teachers, I feel completely back to normal. I never fell far behind in school. My school didn’t let me skip a beat, and I remained on the honor roll.
I am a senior now and have been back in school since the start of junior year. My college applications are complete, and I turned 18 last week. I feel good about the future, short- and long-term. I’m still setting goals and looking forward. When you see my name on a ballot soon, I hope you will cast your vote for me.