Survivor Squad: Cat

Name: Cat
Age: 23
Status: In treatment
Fun Fact: Cat’s dog, Belle, keeps her company when she isn’t feeling well

Cat is 23 years old, a graduate student, a dog owner, an academic fraternity member and much more. Nothing can slow her down – not even a cancer diagnosis.

On April 21, 2015, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 22. She was in her second year of pharmacy school at the University at Buffalo, which she said is the hardest year in the program.

“I had just been feeling really sick for a while. It’s not like me to be sick and not get better like that,” she said.

She consulted doctors several times about her health, but her concerns were dismissed until a blood clot lodged in her left leg. When it began to swell immensely, Cat sought emergency care and there was no getting around the fact that something was seriously wrong.

The testing that followed concluded that her illness had, in fact, been caused by leukemia.
While most cancer patients feel devastated and scared in the moments following a diagnosis, Cat had a less-than-common reaction – relief. After feeling unwell and seeking answers for so long, it was good to know what was wrong and what steps could be taken.

She made the difficult decision to return to her hometown of Rochester to be close to her parents while she received treatment at the Wilmot Cancer Institute.

While in Rochester, Cat found an additional support system in 13thirty cancer connect which helps teens and young adults through their cancer journeys. She participated in a fitness program there and said that seeing other young people working toward returning to their “normal” lives was a great help to her.

Despite having her family and new-found friends by her side, battling cancer isn’t an easy task.

Cat spent 30 days in the hospital to receive treatment and then returned to Buffalo as a part-time student. She did not stop moving toward her goal of graduation, and now takes oral chemotherapy while continuing her studies at the University at Buffalo full-time.

She’s learned a lot of lessons outside of the classroom, too.

“I’ve really taken the time to think about what makes me happy,” she said.

To her, that means taking the time to give back to others. She began participating in the Light the Night Walk, which supports the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In addition to participating, she tries to raise awareness about the event through her social media.

Although she is still being treated, Cat does not dwell on her cancer.

These days she focuses on keeping her grades up, pampering her new pup Belle, spending time with her boyfriend and making sure that she is staying both happy and healthy as a student and a cancer survivor.