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Q&A with leukemia survivor junior Crystal Trevillion

Q: Tell us how it began.

Crystal Trevillion: Toward the end of 2012, I was in pain a lot. It would be like continuous pain, and I would take pain medicine. It’d go away for a little bit, but over time, it got worse, and I started getting a headache, which became a migraine and lasted forever. So I went to the doctor, and they thought it was due to stress because I couldn’t tell them the specific spots of pain. It was all over my body, but they said to just up the medicine for pain.

So I do that, and I’m still in pain for a long period of time. I started to sleep for long periods of time, and I don’t have time for homework or anything. I push through finals, and there are days where I couldn’t even physically get up in the morning.

Then, the chronic pain was everywhere, and the headaches were getting worse and worse, and I was just suffering. I hated my winter break. I sat in a dark room the whole time. But I started to get chest pains, and my mom said that wasn’t good, so we scheduled another appointment. In the second appointment, they said, “Oh, you should see a psychiatrist because the stress is getting worse.” Nobody’s really noticing that I’m losing color in my skin because my skin is dark.

I had unfinished blood work from a couple years back, so my mom said, “We might as well do that while we’re here.” Then in the middle of the night, they’re calling from the emergency room saying, “You have to come in right now, right away. Pack a bag.” We rush to the emergency room, there’s more testing, poking, and we’re waiting for hours for the results. Finally, they come back, and they’re like, “You have leukemia, you’re going to be admitted, and we have to do a bone marrow biopsy to find out what type.”

Q: What was the chemotherapy process like?

CT: At that time, I was mainly getting IV chemo; unless it was the one my mom gave at home, I had to go to the hospital to get chemo. The peripherally inserted central catheter line at home was the same, but you had to do it every day at certain times, and we didn’t want to go the hospital every day. I also had a lot of blood transfusions because chemo drops your blood level. When I was diagnosed, I found out that my hemoglobin levels (hemoglobin are the red blood cells with the oxygen) were really low, at around four point five grams per deciliter (g/dL) when the normal is 12-13 g/dL. Chemo was dropping my hemoglobin count. In certain cases, they’ll give you medicine to boost your blood count so you won’t get sick, but in mine, the chemo was killing my white and red blood cells, which was the stuff I need.

Q: How do you think cancer will impact your life?

CT: In the future, I’ll know I’ve gone through worse. I don’t see certain things as big problems anymore. Sometimes, I forget and I stress over the little things, but it’s not important. They always tell me to put my health first. If I’m tired, I can’t stay awake. If I’m trying to do a homework assignment, it’s not important. I need my sleep.

Q: Is there anything you’d say to people about your fight with cancer?

CT: It’s something I would not wish upon anybody, but in the end, for me, it was a life experience, and it’s a big chunk of my life. It’s a part of me now. I am extremely open to talking about it if anybody has questions. And just don’t take life for granted.

Compiled by Shawna Chen

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