My name is Tarin, and I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on Monday, February 9th, 2015. The doctors called it ALL, but I was 5 at the time, and all I knew was that my blood was sick.
Leading up to that night, I started to get a lot of bruises on my legs, back and belly. Then I had a fever for over a week. We all thought I had the flu, but that Saturday, I woke up and couldn’t really see. Back then, I said everything looked like “scribble scrabble.” My parents took me to the doctor, but he ruled out the flu and thought we should just monitor it. I usually carry a little dramatic flair with me wherever I go, but this was not drama. It turned out that my eyes were bleeding on the inside because I didn’t have enough platelets in my blood.
We found that out on Monday. The fever went away, so I went back to preschool. Later that day, my mom got a call from the school saying that I wasn’t myself. I had apparently put my head down on the desk and couldn’t stay awake. My mom took me to the doctor right away. That day was a blur to me, but I do remember my doctor saying I needed to go to the hospital straight away. The rest of that day and that entire night was full of nurses and doctors, weird smells, and lots and lots of sticking my arm with needles.
I didn’t know exactly what was happening, but I knew it was bad news. Why else would my grandparents and aunts and uncles have traveled from Chattanooga, Colorado, New York and Vermont to see me?
That was just the beginning. I spent most of the next month in the hospital taking lots of horrible medicines and going in for procedures. I remember nurses grinding up pills and mixing them into chocolate ice cream or pudding. My parents would then spend hours trying to get me to eat that disgusting junk. Not only did it not taste good, it made me feel terrible. I had to take a lot of steroids. They made me so moody. I remember screaming, punching and kicking for no reason at all. The steroids also made me so hungry. I had cravings for the weirdest things. Hollandaise sauce (so much butter, lemon and egg yolk) on poached eggs and asparagus. Pickled okra. My “special sandwich” – tomato, mozzarella and avocado. What can I say, when you’re the kid with cancer, your parents will make you just about anything you ask for...whenever you ask for it! A few weeks in, my stomach had grown so swollen and hurt so much, I had to go back to the hospital to deal with the pain.
By the time I started kindergarten, I was able to swallow pills like a pro, I had no hair, and my port was accessed. That meant I had a tube running down my side under my school uniform. That was so my parents could give me IV chemo at home every night. It didn’t feel good, but it was actually pretty funny watching them get so nervous, worrying about whether they were doing it right.
I was at the end of first grade when I finished treatment, over two years after the end of that horrible first month of treatment. But that’s only one part of my life. I am now a happy, healthy creative girl. I live for theater and learning as much as I can.
When I sat down with my dad to write my story, I had one big question. “Why me?” From the moment I was diagnosed, the way the doctors talked made it seem obvious that I was going to live. It was really hard – but I remember my parents always seemed calm – in front of me at least. I know that some kids were not as lucky as me. Some kids don’t make it like I did. That’s horrifying to me. And that’s why I think it is so important to find a cure. Thank you for supporting Light the Night and helping make our dream come true.