Levi and Jay's First Time Meeting
Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in September 2008, Levi went through tough chemotherapy treatments, nausea, severe allergic reactions, and painful shots. During it all, his Chemo Pal, Jay, was there to distract Levi and help him think about the future. Over 10 years later, Levi is now a successful young man. This is his story.
Like most kids, I have a long, complicated story but for me, somewhere in there also involves cancer.
When I was thinking about writing this, I realized I could take it two ways:
I could talk about my medical journey, about how I went through three and a half years of Chemo, missed my middle school years and had to fight for my life.
I went from being a normal kid to staring at a hospital ceiling.
Everyone is scared of different things... To this day, I’m still scared of waking up in the middle of the night with a fever thinking I have to get rushed to the ER. I’m scared of the piercing sound of the IV machine pumping chemo through me. I’m scared of the adrenaline I get every time someone comes near my port.
At 12 years old I had to process the thought that there was a possibility that I wouldn’t make it in the end because there was no definite answer. But there is another side of this difficult time – about things that went right – and how that helped shape me to become the person I am today.
I Wouldn’t Change A Thing
When I think about how I went from being a 12-year-old cancer patient to fulfilling my dream to become a certified chef and sommelier, I think about the people who stood by my side and how Children’s Cancer Association (CCA) connected me to the power of joy and friendship - and that’s where my Chemo Pal Mentor Jay comes in.
I’ll be honest, when I first met Jay, I thought he was going to be this fun hip guy so you can imagine how surprised I was when this old guy walked in.
At first, I didn’t think we’d have much in common—but it turns out, Jay was exactly who I needed. Truth is, I am a bit of an old soul, and that helped Jay and me connect.
I’ll admit there were tough days, it’s not always easy to be happy when you have literal poison getting pumped through your veins… Jay understood that there were days when we would just sit in silence but he understood it was still important to be there for me.
When you support CCA you’re not just providing a buddy for a child with cancer, you’re creating life-long relationships… every time a chemo pal enters that hospital, they are given the opportunity to enrich a child’s life, providing elements of wellness and hope.
I believe the impact of the Chemo Pal Program goes beyond just the child and greatly affects the mentor as well.
Jay was there for my last chemo appointment, my high school graduation, my culinary graduation and my 21st birthday. I hope that he will be there for my wedding and to meet my first child.
I told my mom once that if I could go back in time and stop my cancer from coming that I wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t have met Jay. I would go through all that pain and fear and chemo all over again just to meet Jay.
This is how important Jay and the power of joy are to me. They encouraged me to keep moving forward and pursue my dreams with confidence.
Since I have been in remission, I have had time to think about my journey and one moment comes to me over and over again.
Every kid who visits the CCA Caring Cabin gets a personalized rock.
During your stay, you take a long walk down this path that leads to a lake, and you decide where to place your rock along the path. There are thousands of rocks, each in a different place, set there by a different kid, some who have survived, others who have not. It’s an emotional walk.
As I was walking down this path with my family, I passed these three twigs that called themselves “trees,” they were weak and frail and nothing impressive, but then a thought occurred to me: One day these twigs will grow, they will grow tall and develop strong roots and they will be healthy.
So, I placed my rock between these three twigs to symbolize MY journey and to represent my fight for survivorship.
I recently thought about that rock and wondered about those trees. I asked CCA to send me a photo.
This is the new picture of my rock. And, those aren’t twigs anymore.
When I saw that picture, I couldn’t believe it. I ran downstairs to my mom to show her. The tree is thriving, just like me!
I think about Jay and what he has done for me and I can only imagine the hundreds of other kids like me who have these amazing relationships with their chemo pals – it’s CCA that brings us all together – forever.
Being a survivor, I often think about what things would have been like if Jay wasn’t part of my story.
I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.
Chemotherapy is full of variables, every little aspect of it has a ripple effect that may or may not be your cure.
For example - If I wasn’t taken to the hospital when I did would I still be a survivor?
If I didn’t go through chemotherapy would I still be a survivor?
So, if I took one variable away like Jay, would I still be standing here... a survivor?
He helped save my life and I owe all that to CCA.
Now I am fully pursuing my passions. I get to work in gorgeous Oregon wine country. Thank you for allowing me to share my story and for supporting CCA’s programs.
Levi and Jay Today
Levi Next to a Tree at the Caring Cabin
Levi's Tree Today