Serena Bonneville is a 17-year-old patient who was diagnosed with cancer last year. Before she heads off to university in September, she took the time to write about her incredible medical journey at BC Children’s – from her initial diagnosis to her treatment – and how the support she received from her family, friends and hospital caregivers helped her to maintain optimism amidst all of her challenges.
I’ve always known that BC Children’s Hospital supports patients from birth, up until the age of 17. This is why being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia subsequent to my 17th birthday was a thought almost as scary as the treatment itself. I say this not because I fear the setting of a general hospital, but because I could not imagine myself getting treatment anywhere else more uplifting than the welcoming environment at BC Children’s Hospital.
My journey at BC Children’s began less than a year ago. I was 16 when they informed me of this unavoidable fate and the three years of treatment that would consume my future. But amongst all of the life-changing news I was given during the first few days, I somehow felt comfortable and assured – much quicker than anyone, including myself, would have ever imagined.
I immediately started writing out my thoughts in an attempt to express my disarray but also to reassure my loved ones of my positive outlook for my future. Now I’m still not quite sure where my infectious optimism stemmed from: it could’ve been from growing up with the most dependable group of friends, or being raised by an incredibly supportive family, or attending a school that continuously encourages and inspires. Even though I am incessantly grateful for all of these things, I can confidently say that my positive outlook wouldn’t be of any existence without the support and comfort given to me by BC Children’s Hospital. From the beginning, every nurse made their own unique effort of getting to know the girl living underneath the diagnosis. I shared stories with the staff members about my life and my experiences, and they reciprocated in ways that made me feel normal, during a time that seemed so frightening and unfamiliar. The long days spent on IV somehow became effortless with the distraction of iPads, movies or games supplied in an area specific for teens (which was much more comforting than being surrounded by crying babies and toddlers.) Even on my days off from treatment, I’d be going to Canucks games, music concerts or getting close-ups with the Vancouver Whitecaps on game day, all thanks to the hospital.
There is no doubt that this diagnosis has caused me to lose parts of my life that I may never get back. But people underestimate the power of a supportive community, like the one at Children’s, which has allowed me to accept this new chapter of my life. And although I continue to battle the fear of facing reality, the compassionate atmosphere of BC Children’s and the personal support of every staff member within, makes the battle that much easier and continues to help me in my journey to breed optimism.
Follow Serena's journey through her blog updates: www.breedingoptimism.blogspot.ca