The Strength Of A Child: My Little Sister’s Fight Against Leukemia

[dropcap]In June[/dropcap] of this year, as I finished dressing up in my royal blue top and black skirt with a traditional green sash tied around my waist, my dad’s cell phone rang loudly from the living room. I thought nothing of it. My mind was busy with curling my hair and fixing my friend’s makeup. It was the day of the Sunnyside High School Cultural Show and my five friends and I were getting ready for our Hmong dance performance that night.

As everyone gathered in my living room, ready to leave, I heard my dad’s voice. It was a mixture of astonishment and confusion. When he finished talking I asked him who it was. My mom had called with bad news. Jasmine had a relapse. At that moment, I was struck with overwhelming sadness and I began to feel like the world was very unfair.

It has been almost three years since my five-year-old sister Jasmine has lived with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). ALL is a cancer in which the body produces white blood cells that are abnormal and don’t function properly. This causes the immune system to not work well; therefore, people with Leukemia can get sick easily because their bodies don’t heal as fast as a normal person’s body.

[pullquote_right]It has been almost three years since my five-year-old sister Jasmine has lived with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.[/pullquote_right]

I was about thirteen years old when Jasmine was diagnosed. One day she had a fever that lasted abnormally long. My mom noticed and took her to the hospital. At first, the doctor said it was just an ear infection and prescribed some antibiotics. But Jasmine didn’t get better. She only grew paler as the days went by. She was taken to the hospital again, but this time we got the correct diagnosis. From that moment on, my parents knew it wasn’t going to be easy for us anymore.

In the beginning it was hard for all of us to adjust to my sister’s sickness. Jasmine was frequently hospitalized at the local children’s hospital because she was receiving chemotherapy, which is a medication to kill the cancerous cells.

Our family’s life basically revolved around her. We couldn’t go out as much anymore, we had to be more cautious, and we had to adjust to a lot of things to accommodate Jasmine’s schedule. It was hard getting used to giving her medicine everyday and always being cautious about her health, even if it was just a minor cold. In the process of the treatment, chemotherapy prevented Jasmine’s hair cells from growing and it resulted in her hair loss. We tried our best to make her feel comfortable so she wouldn’t be sad about what she was going through.

Medical bills for all of Jasmine’s treatment have been pricey. Her constant hospital stays, medicines, blood transfusions, and other fluid transfusions are all part of the charges. Luckily, both of my parents have jobs. My mom’s work provides us with health insurance, and it covers some of the costs for all these hospital bills. We have to come up with money out of our pockets to pay for the rest of it, which can range from twenty to several hundred dollars.

[pullquote_left]The doctors said that with new cells, Jasmine would be cured.[/pullquote_left]

After all the treatment, it was so difficult to receive the news in June that Jasmine’s cancerous cells came back. My parents had to decide whether to repeat the whole treatment again, the only difference being that it would be more intense, or to try something called radiation to wipe out the body’s entire cells followed by a bone marrow transplant from someone, preferably a family member, whose cells matched closest to Jasmine’s. The doctors said that with new cells, Jasmine would be cured.

My eleven-year-old sister Jennifer turned out to be the exact match. What the doctors will do is draw blood from Jennifer’s bone marrow and give it to Jasmine. It will take approximately one hundred days for Jasmine’s body to get used to Jennifer’s cells and grow new and healthier ones, so my mom and Jasmine will be staying at another hospital in Palo Alto, CA.

I have had to be really careful about my personal health. My sister’s bodily defenses aren’t as effective as a healthy person’s. It is highly recommended for her to not go out in public where there are large crowds. When relatives come to visit, Jasmine has to wear a facemask in order to decrease her chances of getting sick. If I get sick in any way, no matter how small it may seem to us, my mom doesn’t let me stay near her for too long because it’s very easy for her to catch it. I try not to get sick by washing my hands frequently, and carrying around a small bottle of hand sanitizer. I have had to stay home a lot and help out more than ever since I’m the oldest in my family. I’ve even learned to give Jasmine her medications at the right time of day.

Some of my friends know that my younger sister has Leukemia, but they don’t really know how we cope with it all at home. Even some of my closest friends don’t know the whole story. It may seem like I have a normal family, but really, if we were compared to the other “normal families” it would be clear that we have it much harder. When Jasmine is at the hospital, my parents always have to worry about how me and my two other sisters are going to get sent to or picked up from school since one parent has to stay with her. I see them working hard and changing their regular schedules to take Jasmine to doctor’s appointments or to stay with her if she’s admitted to the hospital. There is constantly something to worry about.

The friends I’ve talked with about Jasmine and her treatment are supportive and they give me an escape when I want to think of happier things rather than my family’s problems. Sometimes I get time to myself, but other times we’ve had to go to the hospital every day, and it sucked. Sometimes, I’d have a ton of homework, but I’d have to work on it over there. I didn’t mind spending time with Jasmine at all, but I soon realized I needed to go to the hospital less often so I can focus on finishing up homework for the next day.

[pullquote_right]Every time she comes home from the hospital she tells me about her “metaport” and “LP’s” and like most people, I have no clue what she is talking about.[/pullquote_right]

My parents are the ones who have ultimately been stressed to the max trying to ensure our well-being while taking care of a sick child. More importantly, Jasmine is one who has grown accustomed to her sickness and she knows that she has to be cooperative in order for her to be healthy again. Every time she comes home from the hospital she tells me about her “metaport” and “LP’s” and like most people, I have no clue what she is talking about. This whole experience has made Jasmine so mature for a five-year-old.

It hurts to think my little sister grew up not with other little kids, or nap times, or the freedom of being and acting like a little kid. Instead, she grew up with the sight of terrifying needles, doctors, nurses, pain – both physically and mentally, and having the hospital almost as a second home.

But Jasmine is still as strong as ever and she is one of the bravest little kids I know. She can handle needles without resisting or sometimes even crying, and she can take her medicine as pill tablets really well.

She motivates me to work hard so I can finish high school, go to college, and become someone who can help young kids like her. I’ve learned so much from her, and I know now that being healthy is something that everyone should appreciate and not take for granted.

[box_light]RIP Jasmine Yang
June 12, 2005 – June 3, 2011[/box_light]

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

Related Posts