How a childhood leukemia and sarcoma diagnosis shaped my career

Before I was diagnosed with cancer in June 1998, I wanted to be a princess, a teacher or a veterinarian. Instead, I became a registered nurse at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital — the place that saved my life. And it’s all because of the outstanding care I received here as a child. Dual diagnosis: granulocytic sarcoma and acute myeloid leukemia My cancer story began the summer after first grade. At the time, my life seemed idyllic: I was learning golf with my dad, earning badges as a Brownie Girl Scout and playing soccer. Little did I know what life had in store for me. One day I was watching TV with my mom, and I mentioned that I could see two television sets. Concerned, she called over a neighbor who was an optometrist and another who was a nurse. They noticed my left eye was crossed inward and told her to get me to a doctor right away. After examining me, my ophthalmologist promptly referred us to a neurologist. Later, he told us he could actually see a tumor pressing against my optic nerve, but the scans ordered by the neurologist confirmed it: I had granulocytic sarcoma — a very rare type of tumor — in my head, as well as acute myeloid leukemia (AML). A unique childhood cancer treatment plan Granulocytic sarcoma is usually found in the abdominal area of adults after they’ve been diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, so it was unusual for me to have both at age 7 — and for the tumor to be in my brain. A few days after my diagnosis,...