Laura, ex- leukaemia patient
I'm Laura and I would like to tell you about the last four years of my life, which have been the best years. I am now 18 years old, I have finished high school and completed the last season in my basketball youth team and I think that I have closed a particular cycle of my life.
With my sister a few months before my leukaemia diagnosis
This story began on the 28th of May 2007 when I was 14 years old. I was diagnosed with acute promyelocytic leukaemia after two months of tiredness and exhaustion. I blamed the immense tiredness on such a tough training schedule for the knockout phase of the league. However, I decided to go to A&E when I suffered strong flu-like symptoms and literally couldn't move from my bed. I remember that that morning I was due to go to Rivas with the team, but I never arrived to play at the match.
In hospital on the day I was due to go home
When I arrived at the hospital I had a high fever, bruises and exhaustion; in addition to the blood test, the levels of leukocytes and platelets were shown to be extremely low. The doctors told us that they were confident it was a virus attacking my bone marrow, but they couldn't be sure.
At that point I realized that I wasn't suffering from a common cold and I became more and more scared about what I might have. Tests and a bone marrow puncture confirmed what the doctors now knew, it wasn't a virus, it was leukaemia.
I didn't understand anything that was happening because my parents didnt know how to explain it all to me for fear of scaring me. Everything happened at once; I was moved to the Santa Luisa ward (oncology) surrounded by drips, doctors and nurses when my doctor finally explained everything to me "softly". He explained that this new room would be where I would begin the treatment and the road to recovery. The only thing I wanted to do was cry, and despite the visits of my family, friends and teammates, I was convinced that I would never play basketball again, and that was the saddest thing for me.
However, little by little, thanks to help and support of my family, friends and my oncologist, I began to believe, to believe that I would once again bounce a ball and shoot a basket.
They were 2 endless months in the Niño Jesús University Hospital in Madrid, but singing "sing star" with my friends and nurses helped them to go quicker. Also the basketball posters that my sister, Nerea, put up in my room also helped, as did the laughs of my parents.
One day a girl came to see me in my room because she wanted to write a book about adolescents with cancer. Her last question surprised me: what wishes would you ask for if you had a magic lamp? Without hestitation I said that I would like to meet the Real Madrid player Felipe Reyes and be able to go to the European Basketball tournament that was to be held in Madrid in September.
It turned out that this girl was from the Foundation Pequeño Deseo, which is dedicated to realizing the dreams of children to help them during such a critical moment in their lives. And, of course, they worked to be able to realize mine, whilst I was still receiving treatment. To meet Felipe Reyes and enjoy all the games boosted my strengths so much (I didn't need to go into hospital after the third cycle of chemo because the drop in my defences was not as profound as in previous cycles) and I promised myself that one day I would return to competition.
My sister Nerea and me with the Spanish national team player, Felipe Reyes
The last cycle of chemo started with a treatment of ATRA pills which left me exhausted, but I was starting a new course at school. My oncologists recommended that I have teachers from home but I refused because I wanted to have as normal a life as possible.
Whilst trying to give as much as possible in class, in the afternoons I would go to the court where my sister and my team trained. Although my doctors were against it because I was still weak, I threw somes baskets and jogged a little. In June, I passed my tests and began to prepare for a summer of physical exercise (not strong though) to rebuild my muscles with the aim of starting with any team come september 2008.
Shooting a basket during a tournament my team was competing in despite still receiving chemotherapy
That year (2008/2009) was easier and between all the punctures I began training at a better level but it took a year to recover physically. At the end of the year I received a big surprise: after passing in June I knew that I would pass my first year of high school, but the big shock was that the best basketball team in Madrid, Real Canoe Natación Club, wanted to sign me and my sister.
At first I didnt believe it, but the trainer assured us that he would respect my rhythm and help me in every way possible and after contemplating it, we signed.
With that, I had a tough year but little by little, my muscles regained strength and I was able to withstand more training. By the end of the season we came third in Madrid and we almost qualified for the Spanish championships.
But the best was still to come. I began the dreaded second year of college and the 2010/2011 season. I have to say that it has been a very difficult year, with all the pressure of getting good grades to move on to the next year, but that was all secondary for me. 2011 has been the year in which I came of age and it has been the year of my best basketball season as a player.
It has been a peak year. I gained entry into the Nursing school at La Paz hospital in Madrid after receiving good grades in my exams. Thanks to all the people who make up my team and to the strength of my family and friends, I have been able to call myself "Champion of Madrid and Runner-up in Spain!! It is my greatest achievement and a demonstration that leukaemia has not beaten me.
To win the Madrid league was so satisfying having dreamt about it since I began in the sport, but to become the runner-up in all of Spain is something that I still can't find the words to explain it. I only remember shouting and above all crying a lot, and all the memories of the past 4 years came into my head, both good and bad. I have been able to realize my dream of playing basketball again, and to be able to see my parents and sister proud of me, to feel like I have touched heaven, cried with happiness and beating this disease.
Me and my sister Nerea with the cup after winning the Madrid Basketball league on the 1st of May
With my team, celebrating the Madrid gold medal. I am the third from the left
With my sister and my parents, as runner-up in Spain
Biting my silver medal, in that moment I couldn't quite believe what we had acheived
In the final of the Spanish Championship; a game that I will never forget
With my story I want to show that despite the existence of horrible diseases like leukaemia, it is possible to get better and to win. In addition, it is possible to reach all your goals even when everything looks bleak.
Strength and patience to everyone. The word leukaemia is a scary one, but you can beat it and make your dreams come true!!
Keep going, we can all win this difficult game!"