Hi my name is Karen Mackall. I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on April 23, 2001. This type of cancer usually affects boys 2-4 years old. As a girl and because of my age I was put at high risk. I was to complete 2 ½ years of chemotherapy. I am the oldest of three kids my brother was 11 years old and my sister was 15 at the time of my diagnosis. We had never had anyone in our family have cancer. My brother and sister were really scared because they didn’t know that much about cancer.
My body responded really well to the chemo I went into remission right away. I had 2 different ports in the beginning of my treatment, which is a line just under the skin in my chest that goes straight to my heart. They put the chemo in the line and then your heart pumps the medicine to the rest of your body. The chemo I took over the course of 2 ½ years was a combination of pills, spinal taps and spinal chemo, leg shots and IV medicine.
I got diagnosed in the spring of my Junior Year of high school. I was a swimmer and a water polo player for my school. At the time I was really into art and was looking forward to go away to college to play polo or swim. After my diagnosis that seemed nearly impossible. I had a tutor to help me get through my senior year but what was funny was when I couldn’t go to school I really wanted to. I ended up only missing a month of school and that was only during times when my blood counts were so low that I was susceptible to infection and the doctor said I couldn’t go.
I graduated and continued to swim and play polo my senior year as well as I went back to work two months after my diagnosis to my job at Starbucks. I really believed that staying in sports and exercise helped my overall well-being. I graduated and I watched all my friends leave for college while I attended the local junior college and completed my chemotherapy. I swam and played water polo for my Junior college and in June of 2003 2-½ years after my diagnosis I finished chemo.
I decided the fall of 2004 that I would attend San Diego State University where I could go to nursing school and swim. I decided to become a nurse because of the great nurses I had during treatment. I walked on the SDSU swim team and I made it! I graduated nursing school from National University. I have been working as a Registered Nurse for the past 4 years in San Diego. I have been involved in volunteering for the American Red Cross, Team in Training Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and the American Cancer Society. I wanted to share my story so that other people know that they are never alone going through the cancer journey.