Angel was diagnosed at the age of 21 with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). She used to work as a server at a sushi restaurant, where she worked almost every day except Sundays. She remembers starting to feel really fatigued at work and she would get bad chest pains, but she really didn’t think much of it, until she began having worse symptoms in November of 2015. Her weight started dropping, her appetite decreased, she began having night sweats, and the chest pains became severe.
Angel would tell her sisters and her mom how she felt but nobody believed her because they always said she was like the “girl who cried wolf” since was always very dramatic. Even with all those symptoms she never in a million years would have thought it was cancer, so she went on with her life. In January of 2016 she remembers waking up throwing up. They went to the doctor and the she was told that must have just lifted something heavy at work and that was why her chest was hurting.
What the doctor said didn’t make sense to Angel’s mom so she asked if they could do blood work. Two days later they called back and said the results were back in and they needed to come back to be seen right away. They went back in and the doctor said Angel had a really high white blood count and an enlarged liver, so she was sent to a specialist the following week, who admitted Angel into the hospital immediately. He said she needed to start chemotherapy and that her hair was going to fall out! At this point she still didn’t understand why. All she remembers thinking was, “my hair, not my hair!” It wasn’t until she saw the sign for Norris Cancer Hospital that she realized she had cancer.
Angel started a yearlong chemo regimen in conjunction with radiation. She also received a bone marrow transplant from her brother, Gilbert, though he was only a half match. She was put into remission in December of 2016. Then 2 months later, she found out she had relapsed. She was devastated to learn she had to start all over again. So she began chemo and was put back into remission on June 21, 2017 and was ready for her 2nd transplant using a full match from an unrelated donor. Unfortunately, a couple of months after her transplant she started having acute GVHD (Graft vs. Host Disease) The side effects started getting worse so now it is considered Chronic GVHD. Although Dr Ahktari has tried everything to help control the GVHD nothing has really helped yet, so she recently had a port put in and July 9th she will be starting a treatment called Photopheresis. She will be going in every week twice a week for this treatment.
Angel may be cancer free but her journey and her story continues. Sadly, she and her boyfriend never had a chance to have kids and at this point she doesn’t think she’ll ever be able to have her own babies.