Meet the Teen Cancer Survivor Who Raised $335,000 for the Cause
We had arrived at the lake for Labor Day weekend. I was walking towards the house with my family, when I suddenly couldn't walk without tripping. The radiologist who x-rayed my legs thought it was child abuse, because they discovered I had bucket handle fractures in my knees.
The next day my parents took me to an orthopedic doctor who agreed with the radiologist. My parents were reported and Child Protective Services came later that night to investigate my family. The doctors took full body x-rays of my sister and I, when they found a large malignant tumor on me. It was pushing my heart over; my parents were informed that it was cancer. I underwent a biopsy of the pleura of my lungs the next morning, which was where the tumor was leaking fluid. The fluid was drained and sent to pathology. That Saturday afternoon, we were given the results of the biopsy. My diagnosis was non-Hodgkin lymphoblastic lymphoma. I was two-and-a-half years old.
Today, I am a 16-year-old healthy and happy high school cheerleader and I want to make a difference. My parents have been involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for a very long time, so I decided it was my turn to get involved, too.
I started by competing in the non-profit's inaugural “Students of the Year" competition, where I went on to raise $335,000 in just seven weeks. Along with 400 students, we raised a total of $6 million all for cancer research. It was a humbling experience; most importantly, it was a reminder of the importance of helping others.
My favorite part of the competition was going to the hospital to visit with kids. They asked me questions that their doctors or parents couldn't answer. “Ella, when I go home, is it going to be difficult? Do you have any pain still? Will my friends look at me weird?” The look on their parents’ faces upon meeting me was indescribable, because they could see how healthy I am today. It gave them some semblance of relief and, above all, hope. These visits reinforced how awful cancer is; they also reminded me of the reality that these kids are sick, and I was once a sick kid, too.
More research on my diagnosis could have eliminated the child abuse allegations and not have put my family through that unnecessary trauma. I don't want any child to go through what I went through, or any parents to go through what mine did. The experience taught me how much more there is to life than high school drama, or a bad grade, or an argument with your parents. None of that matters. We are so lucky, every single day, to be healthy.
By Ella Behnke, 16