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A Success Story - Eunice Lee

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Eunice Lee      

Eunice is attending the University of California, in Davis, California, majoring in Human Development.  Her cancer journey has motivated her to stand beside young cancer patients and their families as a Child Life Specialist to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization.  She is a Burkitt's Lymphoma survivor.  In her own words:

A year after my family moved to Korea, my right leg began to ache.  Multiple doctors could not determine the cause.  Due to the fact I was only 12 and unfamiliar with Korean medical terms, I did not understand the tests, but I never questioned what was going on.  At what seemed like another inconclusive visit, I had a PET scan.  A few days later, my mom and I returned to the hospital.  My nurse Yeun used my Korean name as she motioned toward the doctor's office.  Inside, the doctor sat behind a computer.  On her lab coat was a name tag in all Korean except for the words 'Severance Hospital Ward' in English.  I watched her pen make circles around my results as she explained in Korean.  I could not understand, so I turned to my mother, whose face crumpled up into a ball.  I giggled to myself. My mom turned to me and with a shaky voice said, 'Eunice, did you understand what she said?  You have cancer.' 

I always heard about older people dying from cancer, including my grandfather and several church elders.  To me, cancer was like a deadly animal that killed everyone it met.  So when I heard my diagnosis of Burkitt's Lymphoma, I thought it meant the end for me too.  The first weeks of my treatment, I moped about how I lost muscle, all my hair, contact with all of my friends, and freedom by being wheelchair-bound. 

It wasn't until I read a quote that said, "You have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonc' that I realized I did not want to spend a year in a hospital bed staring blankly at a TV screen.  I decided to use my days exploring different activities.  I began knitting, drawing, and even learning a new language.  I learned how to turn the limitations of chemotherapy into opportunities to explore new things.  I also joked about my hair loss with funny wigs and to lighten the mood around me.  The hospital staff described me as bubbly, tenacious, and diligent because I cared enough to keep up with my school work with the hope of returning one day. 

All of these qualities are what I have gained from living with cancer.  Looking back, I know that my hope was what helped me get through the difficult treatments, but I did not really understand this until my junior year in high school when I had the opportunity to volunteer at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). 

Of the 30 different seminars offered at the CHOP Volunteer Program, I instantly gravitated towards the hands-on work of the child life specialist.  Sandra, the child life specialist, explained to me her role as a pediatric health care official who works with both children and their families to help them cope with the challenges of hospitalization.  She pulled out her puppet explaining, 'This is Molly.  I use her to help kids cope with their pain.' The hospital and procedures can be intimidating, but having a friend that the patients can express their sentiments to not only takes away the scariness of it, but also helps them understand.  While I did not have my own puppet for comfort, I entertained myself through the challenges of chemotherapy. I knew that my mission was to become the child life specialist of future patients. just like I had been for myself years ago. 

Having cancer is both the worst and best thing that has happened to me.  At the age of 11, I was pulled out of school, denied a social life, and bound to a hospital bed for a year.  At first, I was shocked, hurt and afraid; but in time, I was able to find happiness at my lowest points. 

Through my treatment and CHOP experience, I have learned that I desire to work toward a future where no child or their family has to go through a confusing disease diagnosis alone.  I am grateful to Cancer Survivors' Fund for being there for me as I plan to be there for the cancer patients of tomorrow."

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