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A Success Story - Kyla Pokorny

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Kyla Pokorny

       Kyla is attending the University of Connecticut, in Storrs, Connecticut, majoring in Nursing (BSN).  Kayla's battles with cancer has helped her realize that she wants to pursue a career as a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.  She is a two-time Ewing's Sarcoma survivor.  In her own words:

“What do you do when a doctor tells you that you have a 10% chance of living? What do you do when your body turns against you not once, but twice?  Do you look at it from the viewpoint that your glass is empty or full? 

It all started on March 28, 2011.  I was your average thirteen-year-old girl, when my life came crashing down on me.  I was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.  The cancer was in my scapula (shoulder blade) - a bone that can be removed without the amputation of a limb.  The surgery to remove my tumor; however, would take the range of motion of my arm, and leave it with less than half of what it had before.  During that year, I spent about 320 out of 365 days at Connecticut Children's Medical Center, receiving intense chemotherapy treatment and recovering from severe side effects.  After a year of treatment, I was given every reason to believe that I had won the battle, but in July of 2013, fifteen months after successfully ending my chemotherapy treatments, half of my face went numb and an MRI revealed two new masses in my head.  My biggest nightmare had transformed into reality.  The cancer had reoccurred, and I would undergo 31 radiation treatments and 19 more months of chemotherapy. 

It would've been so much easier to lie in a bed of bitterness, to fall in a hole of negativity, and to hate the world for doing this to me.  However, cancer taught me differently.  While these past 4 years seem like a big gigantic mess, I like to think of it more as a gift.  That 10% chance that I was given pushed me to fight, to persevere, and to see the blessings within the curse.  Having cancer made me fully appreciate life and everything it has to offer.  It taught me to be optimistic.  I now look at my glass as overflowing from the top, rather than pouring out from the bottom. 

It has allowed me to live in the moment.  I had spent my life focusing on the big picture, but cancer required me to look at the small picture.  I learned that trying to predict what the outcome of radiation would be or what the results of my next MRI scan would be was a tortuous task.  So for the first time, I began to focus on the present and I started to go for the things I want - not tomorrow, but today. 

Cancer has also connected me with people that bring joy to my life.  For my hospital friends, our shared experiences have created relationships that would have never existed if it were not for being sick, and to that, I say, thank you cancer.  Dealing with my own medical struggles has brought compassion to the surface of my being.  Whether it was buying lunch for a homeless man on the streets of New York City, being a teacher's aide in the special education classroom at my high school everyday, or organizing fundraisers to buy Christmas gifts for families at Connecticut Children's Cancer Center, I have found absolute joy in giving back by doing things that benefit others.  I have also volunteered at Johnson Memorial Cancer Center, Kindred Transitional Care and Rehab Nursing Home, Enfield Food Shelf and as Captain of our local Relay for Life Team.   

And lastly, having cancer has guided me to realize what it is that I want to do in the future.  I initially want to obtain a Bachelors of Science in nursing (BSN) and eventually a Masters Degree to become a Pediatric Acute Care Nurse Practitioner.  The hospital became a place of comfort, as it was my home away from home.  Throughout these past four years, I have been very lucky to have a great care team at Connecticut Children's Medical Center.  Many of my healthcare providers at CCMC, especially my nurses and nurse practitioners, have profoundly altered my life.  They were role models and heroes, and I could not be more thankful to have had them caring for me during my hardest times in my life.  I want to be that nurse who is a hero to my patients and that person who wakes up every day eager and excited to go to work.  And I also want to be that person who gives back by caring for others.  That is why nursing is the perfect career choice for me.  Not only does the hospital environment feel like home and the scientific aspects of nursing fascinate me, but the feeling I get from helping others who truly need it, is a feeling I would be extremely lucky to experience in my every day career.  And this is why I say that cancer is a gift.  It has brought me several important realizations along the way that will benefit me in the future.  One of these was the awareness that I want to pursue a career in the nursing field. 

I never would have volunteered to go through what I have gone through in the last 4 years;  however, like any other struggle, cancer has changed me.  I wish that the way I learned about overcoming struggle was through something other than cancer, but life is unpredictable.  We do not always get to choose our battles.  I believe that we have to play the hand we were dealt, and we have to do it in the best way that we can.  So no, I am not glad that I got cancer, but I am extremely lucky to have been led to where I am today because of it. 

The threat of death brings you so much closer to life.  No words can express how lucky I feel to be able to say that at such a young age, I have learned lessons that could take others many more decades and their entire lives to learn.  Katherine from the movie 50/50:  'You can't change your situation. The only thing that you can change is how you choose to deal with it.'   Thank you so much Cancer Survivors' Fund for your inspiration and trust in me as I train to dedicate my life to helping others who truly need it.”

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