Copyright © 1998, Tom Tullgren
I am a survivor of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. I was treated in 1971 at the age of three. I don't remember quite everything, but I will do my best. The doctors at the time decided to treat me with radiation to the head and spine as a preventative measure and top it off with chemotherapy. You know the usual, Methotrexate, Cytoxin, 6mp, Prednisone, and Vincristine. Quite a bit for a little guy to handle. But, I was a real trooper. Cute too!
Shortly afterward thanks to the doctors aggressive and successful treatments, I was cured. No more cancer! Yahoo! I went on to lead a normal life. Well I thought it was going to be normal. The cancer stayed away, but I began to notice some changes in my life. Well, I really didn't notice at the time. A little hindsight helped a lot.
I am thirty now, and have been researching the long-term side-effects of cancer therapy, particularly therapy on those around the age of three when they received therapy. Now that I have had time to review the last 30 years of my life, I have noticed some differences between my peers and myself. I have some memory/learning problems, my thyroid is out of balance, testosterone levels are low, I have arthritis, and I am a little short. But I make up for that in personality! I am currently being followed by my doctors for these side effects of my cancer therapy. I am doing quite well.
I graduated from high school with my class. I acquired the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. I was in the Air Force for a short time. Also I, have started my own business. I would not change a thing, and I thank God and my doctors and the treatments they gave me. The only thing I would add, is that I wish I knew that while I was growing up that I had a disability. I could have gotten some tutoring or some understanding that "Hey, I am a survivor of cancer, and I am doing my best."
You see, I did not realize that I was a special kid, just like all kids treated for cancer. We all react differently to treatments. Some of us need extra help in certain subjects in school and in the social aspects of life. Life's tough after cancer and it is sometimes tough for us little ones to get back into the flow of things. We do not always know how to express ourselves in a way that adults can understand. It took me almost 27 years before I was able to understand what was happening to me or before I had the capability of expressing it in words that everyone could understand. Then I had to find someone to listen.
We have to make compromises when it comes time to be treated for cancer. With out them none of us would become strong survivors, setting the example for other upcoming cancer survivors. We are a team and we must stick together for support. It's our duty, young or old. Even though I suffered side-effects and my therapy was experimental, I know that because of my sacrifice I am able to help someone else live a longer and a more successful life. Someone had to do it for me and now maybe it is your turn.
If you need someone to listen to you about your side effects of cancer and you have similar side-effects as mine, I would be glad to share on how I deal with it on a day to day basis. You can reach me by email at the address above.
Keep up the good work!
Editors' Note: See the Letter to the Editors from Pamela for a response to Tom Tullgren's Survivor Story.