From Childhood Cancer Survivor to Pediatric Oncologist
Organized by: Rudy wells
It is amazing how fast your life can really change. I was a normal six year old child enjoying the summer before first grade until I woke up to a morning that would change my life forever. I was covered in bruises and could not stop myself from getting sick. My mom could not believe what she saw and rushed me to our local pediatrician who immediately told us to go to Wolfson’s Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida. Walking into the hospital I felt my legs giving out and I collapsed losing consciousness. The hospital room was still spinning when I slowly woke to the sound of the steady beat of the heart machine and three blurry figures talking about my condition. In that moment, I will never forget my dad saying, “Is there any way that you can give this to me so my son does not have to go through this”. I soon discovered I had developed a blood cancer known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. After enduring over two years of intensive chemotherapy, many hospital stays, and a strong dislike for wearing a mask all the time, my life would never be the same.
Now that I am older, I have heard the perspectives of my parents and family when they were dealing with my diagnosis. This has been one of my biggest driving forces in wanting to pursue a career as a pediatric oncologist. I want to be there to inspire hope and closure to families that have potentially heard the most devastating news in their lives. Telling a family that their child has cancer will be one of the most difficult moments in my life but the hope and assurance that I will do everything possible to take care of their child will be far more rewarding. The chemotherapy was a long and enduring journey but there were many amazing organizations that helped me and my family get through the process. One of the most notable organizations was the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund. The Jay Fund was created by the former coach of the New York Giants, Tom Coughlin, and is aimed at helping families tackling childhood cancer. This foundation provided us with emotional support by giving us the opportunity to go to Jacksonville Jaguar football games and see all of the behind the scene action that goes into preparing a football team. The Jay Fund also provided financial support by awarding me a scholarship for my undergraduate education at the University of Florida.
If it was not for the amazing doctors, organization, family, and friends that I have now I would not be here to share my story and improve the lives of everyone around me. I feel like it is the time in my life where I will work to give back to families battling cancer and the organization that helped me.
Upon graduating from the University of Florida in May of 2015, I have started an internship with the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund where I have seen the trials that some of the families can go through and how much help this organization changes their lives. I have also spent my time volunteering for the Ronald Mcdonald house here in Jacksonville, FL. I am blessed to have had these opportunities and in December of 2015 I received the best news in my entire life and that was to be accepted into the University of Florida’s College of Medicine class of 2020. I feel blessed to still be standing here today and I now get to pursue my dreams to help the lives of the families that really need it.
Unfortunately the dream of medical school comes at a very high cost! Tution at UF College of Medicine is close to $40,000 per year. Being in the first generation in my household to go to college let alone medical school, my family simply does not have the funds to help me during this next step in my life. Any help at all for tuition will be greatly appreciated and if anyone would like to contact me I would love to hear from you. Thank you for taking the time to read my story and I hope that it inspires you throughout your life.