Strength and resilience through acute lymphoblastic leukemia

trength and resilience through acute lymphoblastic leukemia

She was an energetic high school freshman and competitive runner, but she suddenly started to feel run-down and tired. She chalked it up to a weird virus or possibly a sickness going around.

A week went by, and she told her mom she felt like she was hit by a bus. Her mother took her to visit the pediatrician, who did an examination, ran several tests, and sent her to Texas Children’s Hospital. Two days later, she received a call with an unexpected diagnosis.


This is Calli’s story. She is a 16-year-old League City track and cross-country runner who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). She has been undergoing treatment since the day of her diagnosis, beginning a nine-month-long odyssey of weekly chemotherapy, under the care of Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer and her team at Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center.

Calli’s diagnosis, which was completely unexpected, obviously hit her family hard. It was overwhelming to go from anticipating that she had virus-like mono (mononucleosis) to being told she had leukemia.

The days that Calli receives treatments are long, lasting anywhere from three to six hours. She had a rough time with chemotherapy. Dr. Dreyer notes that the treatment for Calli’s leukemia is one of the toughest, “It will take 2.5 years, and the first year is especially hard. It was a difficult adjustment for her, as she is a competitive track star and she had to give that up for a while. But now she is starting to run again, and she is almost through the toughest part of her treatment.”

The power of support

Calli and her mother, Chelsea, have received an abundance of love and support from family, friends and the community of cancer parents they have met through their journey.

“Support is critical during cancer treatment, and I would definitely say that finding a community of other families who have children with cancer is huge—whether it’s in person or on social media or meeting them at the clinic. It’s huge to have other people who know exactly what you’re going through,” said Chelsea.

Dr. Dreyer has been a strong anchor through Calli’s treatment. “She is definitely one of the best in her field. Calli’s old enough to ask her own questions, and Dr. Dreyer delivers information in the best way for a teen and her parent to hear,” Chelsea shared.

Calli has impressed everyone with her positivity, strength and resilience, “You’re going to have bad days, and that’s okay. You have to know that it’s going to pass and it’s not going to be like that forever. It’s critical to have a good support system because there will be times when you just can’t do it alone. You need people around you to help take care of you and cheer you up.”

Calli shared some of her journey on social media to help other teenagers going through the challenges of cancer treatment. She wants people to know what cancer is really like and that it’s not always how it is perceived in movies or television. For example, she thought that everyone completely lost their hair while on chemo—hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, everything. Calli did lose some of her hair and decided to shave it to a buzz cut, but she did not lose her eyelashes and eyebrows.

Strength and resilience

Calli is an incredibly strong girl with a robust faith. She has taken charge of her diagnosis and treatment. She sets goals for herself and inspires her family and care team with her determination to meet them. In the past few months, one of her goals was to be more active. Her parents are both runners, and Calli first joined them doing workouts when she was seven years old. Track and field are an integral part of her life, and she has been a successful competitor for several years. Right before she was diagnosed, she ran daily and was in training for cross-country season. After nine months of grueling chemotherapy, Calli has recently been able to go on walks and run around the track at the gym again.

Calli’s mom said that seeing Calli run was a very emotional moment because she had gone from easily running a 6-minute mile to struggling to walk to the bathroom and back.

“Calli has had to push through so many challenges during her cancer journey. There are days when she is better and days when she thought she couldn’t do it anymore, but she has.”


Source: Texas Children's Hospital

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