My name is Kanan La Secla, and I’m an ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic) Leukemia survivor.
I hope with my story that I can inspire many of those who are still out there fighting against cancer. I know the key things that got me through it was about all else God, the family and friends that never left my side, and a positive attitude. Believe me, I understand how hard it can be to keep your head up in such a time of struggle, but I promise staying positive and keeping faith will take you far.
In the summer of 2009, I had just graduated high school at the age of 18. The first couple months were normal, and I was enjoying break, spending time with friends, family, and just staying busy. Then, about mid-August, I came down with what I thought was tonsillitis, I had a 104° temperature for about 4 days. My father had taken me to urgent care to figure out what was going on. They did several tests, and they all came back negative. I took antibiotics that slowly, but surely, brought my temperature and the swelling of the glands down. After about a week of being in bed, I finally felt good enough to get out of the house. So I went with a handful of friend to Universal City Walk. I was just walking around and suddenly my heart started pounding, and I was exhausted. I felt like I had just ran a marathon. It was strange to me because my whole life, I was an athlete: and active skateboarder, and a varsity baseball player in high school. My only thought was that I was out of shape from being stuck in bed all week, so I chose to ignore it, but 4 days later the issue persisted and worsened. My heart pounded harder from simple things such as sitting up. I was tired and had no energy to do anything. My appearance change, all the color in my face had gone. I was completely pale, even in my lips. My aunts actually noticed it at a family BBQ, and urged my father to take me back to Urgent Care. That night my family all prayed over me, and it was the first time I really felt God in my life. The next morning I admitted back into Urgent Care, they ran a few heart tests and took a blood test. While waiting for the results for the blood test, the doctor thought maybe I was dehydrated. I was put on 2 bags of IV’s and about halfway through the second IV, the doctor ran into the room in a bit of panic. The doctor said I needed to head to the ER ASAP and that my blood was so low that I may be internally bleeding. Needless to say, that was my first scare. I then went into a local ER, and found out I had 1/3 of the blood I was supposed to have. I was told that if I didn’t go to the doctor when I did, I wouldn’t be here to share this with you. I my opinion, another sign of God’s grace. The doctor said the only reason I was alive is because of my strong heart, due to my athletic background. I was given 3 bags of blood that night. Each one takes 3 hours, so let’s just say I had a long night. The next day, I was given one of many bone-marrow procedures to find out what was going on with me. On the 3rd day of being in the hospital, August 25th 2009, I was diagnosed with ALL Leukemia.
I was transferred a couple days later after my diagnosis to City of Hope hospital. It wasn’t until I got into my room there that I realized how real everything was and how this would be my life for the next 3 and a half years. I’d being lying if I said I wasn’t scared at this moment. It was really the first time I had broken down. But there is something I was always taught when growing up, and that was to always keep a positive attitude, and never let negative thoughts take over. I was an inpatient at City of Hope for about 2 weeks where I began my first doses of chemotherapy treatment. My friends were amazing through the entire thing. There wasn’t a day in those 2 weeks where I didn’t have a full room of friends and family. Honestly, in a huge part as to why I’m still here today. Loved ones keep your mind from dwelling on the bad – if you’re reading this and you are not fighting this battle yourself, but have a loved one who is sick, I want you to know how important you are, you have no idea what an impact you can make by just being a supportive friend. I look at all my friends and family as a blessing, and love them more than they know. During those two weeks, I had my first procedure where they inserted a Hickman line into my chest (in other words, a “port”). It was a tube that entered my chest and went into an artery into my neck. The purpose of this was to make it easier to give me chemo, IV’s, etc without having to constantly poke me with needles. I’m sure many of you are familiar with what I am talking about. After my two weeks of being an inpatient the side effect of my chemo had hit me for the first time, but on the bright side, I was able to go home. My 3 and a half years of treatment had officially begun.
My first year of treatment was definitely the hardest. After I got home, I went to City of hope twice a week to receive chemo. I also did a series of bone marrow procedures because with Leukemia, their goal is to put a patient into remission in, I believe, 15 after being diagnosed. Those were stressful times because not only was I feeling lousy from the chemo, but because if I didn’t go into remission within that time frame, the result would’ve been a bone marrow transplant. When is comes to a transplant, a sibling is the best chance of a match, but I am unfortunately an only child, so that would’ve been more difficult. I had a little bit of a scare when they estimated 15 days to put me in remission, but it took 21. It came down to the final bone marrow procedure to determine whether of not I needed a transplant. On September 15th 2009, I got a call from my doctor that I was in remission, the first good news I had gotten in a long time. Hearing that gave me more faith in survival. I’m not going to lie and say there weren’t times that I felt down and got afraid, because there definitely were. Whenever I felt that way, I’d turn to a parent or friend. I prayed for strength to overcome the fear I was facing. I never let it sink in. I never for a second let myself believe that cancer would take me. My faith, family, and friends helped me so much through my intensive phase. The large amount of chemo definitely took its toll on my body. I went from 150 lbs to 104 lbs in maybe a little over a month. The more and more I stayed in bed, the weaker I got. So whenever my stomach would finally settle, I would do my best to get up and at least walk around the house. I started off small and then pushed myself to stay out of bed longer, and when my friends came over, I did my best to sit up and stay outside with them. My main issue was eating, I couldn’t keep anything down. Some chemos I would literally vomit every hour of every night; that’s how I lost so much weight. Since I had claimed a life of sobriety, I would on some cases, reject more meds than I had to which, were most of the time, pain pills. I had always been very tolerant to pain, and I always told my doctors and parents that I would rather deal with it. There were circumstances where I didn’t have a choice, like my extreme weight loss. I was told that if I went below 100 lbs, they would have to put me in a medically induced coma, and, essentially, feed me through a tube. So then I was put on a number of things, including giant protein IV bags as a slept at night. Thankfully it worked, and I started to gain weight again, though it did fluctuate. But, thankfully, it never reached dangerous levels again. Through that intense phase, I did several different chemos, several different spinal taps, and, towards the end, I had to go through brain radiation. I did brain radiation for two weeks straight, which isn’t a lot compared to many other cancer patients. I never had cancer in my brain of spine, but I did brain radiation to prevent that. I those 2 weeks being one of the most difficult because right after radiation, I would go upstairs and do a chemo called “ARC” which was the chemo that caused me to drastically lose weight. Throughout my treatment, my hair seemed to holdup pretty well up until the radiation, and then it fell out in a blink of an eye. I wasn’t used to being bald because before that, I had long blonde hair, but instead of feeling down about it, I chose to make fun of it and embrace it. At the end of my intense phase, I chose to have my port removed from my chest. That was something I never liked, so I requested to have it taken out early.
I would rather deal with the needles to be honest. So, with all that, I made it through my first year of treatment. I think it’s easy to say it was the longest year of my life. I’m very thankful to have had all the support I did to get through that time of my life.
The next 2 and a half years were much easier on me, at least my body handled the treatment better. It was pretty routine, I went in once a month for a chemo called Vincristine and every 3 months I had a spinal tap. At home, daily, I took 2 and a half chemo pills Tuesday through Friday, 2 on weekends, and 21 on Mondays, although it increased and decreased depending on my weight during my 2nd year of treatment. I started becoming very active again, going to concerts, attempting to skateboard again (a little frowned upon by doctors), and just being out and about with friends. For the first time in a year and a half I was starting to feel good again. I was still slightly weak because my weight was just coming back, but my immune system was starting to improve again. About halfway through my second year, my left hip was starting to bother me. But because I’m so stubborn, I though nothing of it and that I just hurt it. However, it didn’t seem to heal, so I decided to get it checked after about 2 months. I did an MRI and receive pretty much the last bit of bad news I’d get for the remainder of my treatment. It turns out that I had developed Avascular Necrosis (lack of blood supply to the bone, which causes it to die and collapse) as a result from a prescribed steroid I had been taking called Prednisone. I was taken off the drug as soon as they figured out the issue. I was told I needed a hip replacement and that I couldn’t do high-impact sports again such as skateboarding, baseball, running, etc, which, to me, as almost more devastating than getting diagnosed with cancer in the first place because I had grown up on those things. It bummed me out, but as time went on, I wasn’t going to let pain hold me back from what I love doing…at a moderate level of course.
My last year of treatment was the easiest for me. By this time, the chemo didn’t’ have much affect on me anymore. The spinal taps made me feel crummy, but they were only every 3 months, so it wasn’t too bad. I even started enjoy going to City of Hop and seeing all of my amazing doctors and nurses whom I had built relationships with. Words can’t describe how thankful I am for them, they saved my life, and I could never thank them enough. On December 28th 2012, I took my last dose of chemotherapy and finished my fight with Leukemia. Although getting diagnosed with cancer was extremely tough and such a long journey, I’m actually, in a sense, grateful for it. The experience opened my eyes to see the gift that life really is. It made me a stronger man and has given me the drive to help others undergoing the same battle. If you are fighting this battle with cancer, don’t give up. Whatever the odds, keep your hops high, and don’t lose faith. You’re so much stronger than you think. Always remember how many people are going through the same struggle. You’re not alone and there are so many people out there, including myself, that have your back and support you completely. You’re a warrior, and cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. If you’re reading this and it’s not you fighting – but a loved one, remember like I said before, you have no idea the impact you have on them by just being a friend, brother, sister, father, or mother. You can make them smile in time of grief; you’re incredible and keep supporting them. Through my experience with cancer, I learned so much, and the biggest lesson is to love people. I often wonder why I survived when there’s been so many that cancer has taken, but I’m using this gift that God gave me to hopefully help others win their battle.