My journey with cancer began on my fourth day of kindergarten…


This past summer I was a counselor at Camp Rainbow in Babler State Park, which is a camp for kids with cancer or blood related diseases. My camper showed me that even though she had cancer she wasn’t defined by it. lt took me until middle school to realize that cancer wasn’t who I was, but something that shaped who I was for the better. After being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at age five, my life had drastically changed. lt changed my personality, my dreams and goals, and I have since been able to meet some of my dearest friends who continue to shape my life.


My journey with cancer began on my fourth day of kindergarten, and I was diagnosed as a high-risk patient. The doctors only expected me to live two weeks without treatment, and I was placed on a three-year treatment plan with dozens of chemotherapy treatments, spinal taps, and thousands of pills. I missed more than half of my first semester of kindergarten, isolating me from my peers. Physically, I had surgical scars, no hair, and I was constantly sick. The heavy treatments sometimes limited me in my daily activities, and whenever my immune system was not up to par I was home-bound. Cancer changed my childhood into one of caution instead of adventure.


After having cancer my perspective shifted. Leukemia caused me to become mature, empathetic, and dedicated to helping people. Although I was a young girl, I was forced to mature to understand the illness I was fighting and how to defeat it. lt caused me to always seem more grown up than I actually was. Cancer turned me into a stronger and more empathetic person. I was more aware of other people’s suffering and feelings, causing a yearning in me to want to help them. Ever since I had ALL, all I have wanted to do in the future is to help other kids with cancer or life threatening diseases.


Cancer changed my dreams of becoming a teacher to becoming someone like a nurse or doctor that help cures cancer. Today, I still have that same passion to help people, which is created from my continued thirst for knowledge and volunteering at Camp Rainbow. Over the course of my treatment I met many people from the hospital or from organizations such as Camp Rainbow. From ages six through eight I attended Camp Rainbow. My drive to help people lead me to volunteering, and to be a counselor at the camp that I had once attended.


Ever since volunteering these past two summers, I have made some of my closest friends because we were all in some way affected by cancer. My friends, both campers and counselors, inspire me every day to chase my dreams of helping people affected by cancer. The people in my life remind me that even through the hardships of battling a deadly disease, there is a silver lining. lf I didn’t have cancer, I would have never met some of the most inspirational, caring people in my life who continue to positively influence my life today.


Throughout my high school years, teachers and counselors have always encouraged us to start thinking of our after high school plan. As a freshman, I had no idea what l wanted to “be when I grew up” which made the task of choosing a major daunting.  During my sophomore year of high school, I took Honors Chemistry. Many of my friends seemed to hate it; however, I loved the class and thrived in it. My teacher encouraged me to join the Biodiesel club to learn more about chemistry. This past year I took AP Chemistry which was the hardest class I have ever taken, yet the most rewarding. The class included a three hour lab that started an hour before the start of the school day.  My senior year I plan on taking Semi-Qualitative Analysis and Organic Chemistry. My experience in these Chemistry classes and the Biodiesel club has helped me decide to major in Chemistry.


There are so many facets in the field of Chemistry that it affords many possible careers. By majoring in Chemistry, I have the option of going to medical school after getting my Bachelor’s degree, or I could go into Pediatric Oncology research. While, I intend to obtain a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry with a focus on medicine, I know that the field of Chemistry will provide me with so many career options. Deciding what subject in which to major is a daunting task, and choosing a fulfilling career is even harder. However, focusing on my favorite subject, chemistry, has given me tremendous peace of mind. l’ve learned that you need to choose a career for which you have a true passion. I believe I have found that in the field of Pediatric Oncology and can’t wait to enroll in college to start my journey with my major in Chemistry.


Being diagnosed with Leukemia was one of the hardest times of my life; however, I came out of it a better person. Cancer definitely changed who I am, what I want to be, and affected who I would meet in my life, but I wouldn’t change anything that happened. I am proud of who I have become and what I plan to do with my life. After realizing that having cancer did not define who I was, but helped shape me into a better person, I am encouraged to strive to follow my dreams and to continue to be a positive role model for kids who are suffering from the same illness I had ten years ago. A young cancer survivor told me this year, “be where your feet are”. As long as my feet are on earth, I will be fighting for a cure for those who aren’t as lucky as I was. Cancer may have changed my life, but it never took it, and for that I am forever grateful.


~Sarah Peterson


Leave a Reply