Current age: 19
Diagnosis: Langerhan's cell histiocytosis
Age diagnosed: 11
Without The Valerie Fund Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders and its generosity, I would not be where I am today; studying at one of the top business schools in the nation has always been a goal of mine and with the continuous support from The Valerie Fund, that dream has become a reality. Having cancer taught me to follow my instincts and do what I truly wanted to do. The weekly rounds of chemotherapy and steroid treatment were by far one of the most challenging experiences of my life and definitely took a toll on my body. I had gained a good amount of weight rapidly and I used to point at a picture where I was thin and say, "Don't worry, I'll get back in shape like that someday." About six months after treatment ended, I was back in shape, leading my high school rugby team to its first league championship in school history. I learned from this whole experience the ease with which my life can be taken away from me. I'm fully aware of how lucky I am to be here and have come to realize that I've got to make the most of my second chance at life. Cancer and The Valerie Fund have taught me the art of giving back. I've
volunteered in places like the Czech Republic, South Africa and Colombia. These opportunities have allowed me to develop my own true understanding of the world as a whole and make lasting friendships that otherwise would not be possible.
Current age: 25
Age diagnosed: 18
I was treated at The Valerie Fund Children's Center at St. Barnabas Hospital and no matter how miserable I felt, the doctors, nurses and staff always made me feel better. The Valerie Fund Center means a lot to my family and me and I can never thank them enough. My treatment was challenging. I lost my hair three different times and also lost weight and muscle mass because I was so nauseous. My relationship with my family, already close and strong, was made even stronger. Once I recovered, however, I often think of that time, especially when things get
bumpy: it allows me to move forward. I did have some friends who stepped back into the shadows and left me feeling abandoned. Yet I made new friends at The Valerie Fund's Camp Happy Times. I pursue all opportunities that come my way: I was a counselor at CHT, did random sky diving and took a last minute trip to California with a group of friends. I have also learned to be more open minded and positive. Life, for me, has taken on a whole new meaning. I planned on going into the military right after high school but after I finished treatment I went to college instead and received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice. Law enforcement is now my career choice. Beating cancer seemed to make me a better person. I now have a finer
understanding of life itself and what it means to be a good person.
Current age: 23
Diagnosis: Non-hodgkin's T-cell
Age diagnosed: 14
My cancer did not advance but I did; I have certainly taken more from cancer than what cancer has taken from me. While I am still dealing with the side effects of chemo—I have had both hips and both shoulders replaced —that all seems small because at the end of the day, I am alive. What The Valerie Fund Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders has done
for me has been nothing short of a miracle. The Valerie Fund means hope. It not only gave me my life back but it showed me how to truly live, and The Valerie Fund helped to mold me into the woman I am today. There were countless silver linings following my diagnosis. It gave me the opportunity to spend time with my incredible family and friends, meet new people
and explore my artistic side. I actively started raising money and awareness for The Valerie Fund. I found that it was my passion to speak out for the things I believe in. I now work with other organizations including UNICEF. I graduated from a university in New York with a Bachelor of Science in Media, Culture and Communications and a minor in Psychology.
Cancer engrained within me to never take anything for granted and take advantage of every minute we are given. I have travelled abroad—living in Prague, Czech Republic for a semester during college and make sure that I always say yes to new opportunities. Life is all about experiences, and I am eager to experience everything!
Current age: 18
Diagnosis: Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
Age diagnosed: 16
My memories of The Valerie Fund Children's Center during and after treatment are breathtaking. From the moment my family and I stepped foot into The Valerie Fund Center at Newark Beth Israel they showed nothing but love, support and dedication towards my well-being and for my family. The art therapist and I formed a close bond over the course of my treatment. I used art as an outlet to express myself and how I was feeling. The treatment and management of my disease was very emotional but it just pushed me to strive harder to reach the goals I set for myself.
My experiences helped to direct me along my educational path. Going through this hardship and surviving it proved to me that even when school gets tough I have to accomplish my set goals and persevere to get to the finish line. Receiving help from The Valerie Fund confirmed my decision to go into a career field where I could be of service to others. Upon further reflection, I just want to say the social events that we attended exposed my parents and me to new experiences and people. Sometimes when a medical or other social challenge hits you unexpectedly you feel so alone. Others want to be there for you but no one has the time to give after two or more weeks. This experience of having social activities to attend helped me keep my mind off of my treatments and helped me to look forward to being independent again.
Current age: 36
Diagnosis: Burkitt's lymphoma
Age diagnosed: 9
No nine-year-old wants to hear that they have to spend many weeks in the hospital and that what is going to happen to you will not be pleasant. Those words are foreign. You will also spend many days out of school and probably won't be able to play baseball. But, then, you find The Valerie Fund Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. At The Valerie Fund Center, I was under the professional supervision of oncology doctors and nurses who go above and beyond for those in their care. Being treated right in my hometown of Summit afforded my mom the support of her local friends with visits to the hospital and meals delivered to our house. My grandmother moved in to help my dad take care of my two-year-old sister and 11-year-old brother. It was
tough for me to play sports, so my brother and I would spend many hours going through our baseball cards. You quickly learned who was there for you during the rough times – life's lesson. I
know what it takes to go through tough times. It has opened my eyes to the struggles of the other patients and families, and I understand what other Valerie Fund Center
patients are going through. Being a survivor allows me to live life to the fullest. I am currently a restaurant owner and love my work. The bottom line is that I am happy to be a healthy adult due
to The Valerie Fund and I am compassionate towards people who aren't.
DEBORAHCurrent age: 19
Diagnosis: Sickle cell anemia disease
Age diagnosed: Birth
My family taught me that my disease does not define who I am. The Valerie Fund Children's Center was the place where I first realized that I can still achieve many things despite having sickle cell anemia. My condition could not limit my strength and capabilities. The Valerie Fund gave me so much more confidence. This means a lot to me. It always amazes me that I am still alive and breathing thanks not only to The Valerie Fund but also to God. I think of it as a miracle because I look at myself today and see how far I've come. Living with sickle cell and experiencing how well The Valerie Fund Center nurses cared for me shaped my career path. Ever since I was a little girl I've wanted to become a nurse and told myself, "this is what I want to do; I want to make people feel better". As I've matured I have realized that there are certain things that I cannot participate in for the sake of my health but there are so many other things that I am still capable of doing. Sickle cell cannot stop me from shining. I've gotten through my first year of college as a nursing major, one of the hardest majors out there. I even was on the dean's list. Sickle cell has created a desire in me to pursue new opportunities. I take advantage of the time I have now because I will never know the next time another crisis will develop.
Current age: 29
Diagnosis: Wilms' tumor
Age diagnosed: 18 months
There are times when I see family photos from that period and the severity of the situation really hits me. My parents look ghostly in those photographs. The emotional and physical drain is beyond what I can comprehend even to this day. I am forever grateful to my parents, the doctors and nurses and The Valerie Fund Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders for everything they did for me and for so many others. I am now 28 years removed from treatment and am an entirely different person from the toddler who had to sit very still holding his clown while his father spoke to him through a window during long sessions of radiation. And yet typing these words still brings tears to my eyes. I was too young to know what was going on; that was a
burden everyone else had to bear. Their efforts are the reason I am here today. I recently became engaged and am advancing in my career, I feel incredibly lucky to be here. It drives me to be the best person I can be. I am intimately aware of the true impact of The Valerie Fund. It helps families through the toughest times people can imagine. And it gives people like myself the opportunity to experience all that life has to offer. To me, The Valerie Fund is the greatest organization in the world. They created a lifelong bond that my entire family still remains involved in.
Current age: 44
Diagnosis: Osteogenic sarcoma
Age diagnosed: 16
Diagnosed at age 16, with osteogenic sarcoma in my left leg, The Valerie Fund Children's Center became a place for treatment, healing and support. Even afterwards,
when all the regimen was completed, the staff at The Valerie Fund Center continued their care and encouragement. The Valerie Fund is family to me.The osteogenic sarcoma was in my left leg and major surgery had to be done above the knee, where part of the femur was replaced with a donor bone. I then had two and one-half years of chemotherapy. The surgery and treatment was physically and emotionally depleting, but I was very motivated to get back to a normal life. I was committed to attending high school and keeping up with my work. In many ways my
life is better because of what I learned from that experience. Surviving osteogenic sarcoma created a desire to live life to the fullest. It brought my family closer together and gave me more strength to deal with other challenges, an appreciation for life in general and the gift of my Camp Happy Times family. The friendships I've made at CHT, beginning as a junior counselor when I was 20, have endured for more than half of my life. Those friends are family, too. After finishing college, I decided to pursue a graduate degree in social work and was inspired to work with children. I learned many things from my experiences at The Valerie Fund, but one of the greatest lessons was to enjoy and appreciate what I have.
Current age: 43
Diagnosis: Pre B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)
Age diagnosed: 5
The Valerie Fund Children's Center team, its doctors and nurses, its social worker, financial counselor, and phlebotomists, became part of our family. The Valerie Fund Center team guided us through the hard times of living with cancer. The treatment was challenging. I relapsed twice, needed radiation and had to go through an experimental stem cell transplant, so I think about my illness often. Returning to good health is still an ongoing process. The Valerie Fund's Camp Happy Times is the best thing that could have happened to me. As I continued to grow, CHT helped me gain insight into my situation. I was able to talk with peers about the struggles in life beyond cancer and later to merge my camp life with my outside life. Some distance developed between my siblings and me, however, because we had to be separated during my treatment for leukemia. We are closer now than when we were kids. It also took me a long time to find relationships that were meaningful, mostly because of my own insecurities. But I made many great friends through the entire Valerie Fund experience. And I am happy to say that I eventually fell in love with my latest and best friend. We have been married now for over 9 years! As a pediatric oncologist, I help young adults with cancer to overcome their obstacles and to prepare themselves for a better future. I thank you Valerie Fund, for making a wonderful difference in my life and the lives of other sick children and their families.
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