Acute lymphocytic leukemia survivor remains ‘a fighter, not a quitter’

When Claudia Pichardo was a child, one of her many doctors told her she was a fighter, not a quitter. “Ever since then, that’s been my motto,” she says. In fact, she’s relied on it throughout her life. An acute lymphocytic leukemia diagnosis Claudia’s cancer journey started at age four, when she was diagnosed with anemia, started bruising easily and began running a fever. Her mother took her to their local hospital, where a series of tests eventually brought the diagnosis: acute lymphocytic leukemia. The doctors immediately referred the family to MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, where Claudia underwent several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, along with several painful bone marrow biopsies and spinal taps. After four years of treatment, she went into remission. Claudia’s acute lymphocytic leukemia recurrence That was a short-lived break, though. Just two years later, at age 10, Claudia got what she thought was her first period. It lasted for more than two months. Scared and dreading the idea of going back to the hospital, she hid what was happening from her family. When her mother finally found out, she brought Claudia back to MD Anderson, where they got more difficult news. “They sat my mom and me down and said that it was a tumor that was spreading all over my body and that they had to do emergency surgery. If I had come in sooner, they would have just treated it with radiation and chemotherapy.” More radiation and surgery followed the surgery. This was perhaps the toughest time of Claudia’s treatment. She was, she admits, not the most cooperative patient. More than...