Celebrating Survivorship: Elaine Erickson

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My name is Elaine Virginia Erickson. I am 49 years old. I am a cancer survivor. I was born in Texas and my parents relocated back to Chicago, Illinois, where my dad was going to finish a college program at Moody Bible Institute. At one year old, I was sick and would have seizures but a diagnosis could not be confirmed as to what was causing my bruising, pain, lack of appetite, lethargy and seizures. It was first thought that I had Scarlet Fever then I later received a second diagnosis of acute juvenile arthritis. Meanwhile I was having seizures at home and in the backseat of the car when my parents were driving. I was sick for almost a year when my parents were told I had ALL-leukemia. I had been seen at Children's Hospital in Chicago and was admitted when I was two years old.

My parents told me when I was older that they did not have any health insurance. Children's Hospital told my parents about a clinical trial that I believe was connected to UCLA (California) for the chemo drug, Vincristine. I had chemo, full body radiation, and was on tons of prednisone. I went to Cancer Camp for children at 'One Step At A Time' and it helped me feel like I fit in somewhere and was not alone in the world as a child with this cancer and all the treatments. My parents would take me back and forth to appointments when I was out of the hospital. I lost my hair and when it grew back it was lighter and a different color. I did not want to or like to wear a wig. A family member made me a cloth doll that did not have hair and I liked her, my doll was like me (I still have the doll). I remember getting chubby from the prednisone. I remember all the blood draws. I remember missing school in preschool, kindergarten and first grade. I was not allowed to have vaccinations.

In the middle of my fourth grade year I moved with my family to California. I remember going to City of Hope for follow up care and for wellness checks. By the time I was 8 years old the ALL was in remission and I never relapsed. I was tested for learning disabilities and other things at City of Hope. I live with life-long side effects from the chemo and full body radiation. It stunted my growth and I have experienced broken toes, foot pain, twitching and ITP twice. It was thought that I had relapsed. Other challenges have included a ruptured aneurysm, pain, nerve damage, heart issues, high cholesterol and reproductive system issues.

I am alive and I am a CANCER SURVIVOR! I have done many marathons and my first three were with The Leukemia Society now The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. My siblings like to say that it's miraculous I'm alive. I learned that it is important to stay healthy and active. I have very little cartilage in both knees so the running and marathons are not an option for me now. So I walk and enjoy exercise as much as possible. My sweat glands were destroyed by the cancer treatments too so I've always had to pace myself because I overheat easily. I'm grateful to be alive and to be a cancer survivor for so many years. I feel blessed.

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