My Cancer Journey

Three years ago, hoping to broaden my horizon and enrich my experiences, I came to Canada from China as an international student. I began Grade 9 at a secondary school in Delta, living with a lovely and welcoming homestay family.

With conscientious efforts and strong interests in the courses, I did well at school and gradually got used to the lifestyle in Canada. However, a year later, my life changed.

At the beginning, I started to have back pain. I went to a walk-in clinic where a doctor told me that I had likely pulled my muscles and only prescribed some pain relief to help me get through the day. But soon, the medication was not enough to take away the pain and I was really tired for most of the day. I even began waking up at nights screaming in pain and fever.

In February 2016, after three more visits to the walk-in clinics with no relief, I completed a series of blood tests. Those tests led to a phone call from the lab telling me to go to the hospital immediately. At Surrey Memorial Hospital, I was diagnosed with leukemia. Doctors there called my parents right away to give them the terrible news, but without them physically with me, I was lonely, shocked and scared.

The very next day, I was transferred to BC Children’s Hospital where doctors contacted my parents on FaceTime to discuss a treatment plan. My school district Director of the International Student Program, my legal guardian, kept me company until my dad could arrive.

My treatment was harsh – four rounds of chemotherapy lasting a predicted six months. I had fevers, rashes, nausea, vomiting and even two bacterial infections that landed me in the ICU. I couldn’t step out of my room at the hospital.

One day, when I was still feeling helpless and isolated, two Disney Princesses came to my room and surprised me with gifts and delicious snacks. They brought me joy even though I was not allowed to go outside. That was the first time that I heard of Balding for Dollars. The love and support did not end there.

After five months of intense treatment, fortunately, thanks to all the medical professionals and people who have helped me along the way, I completed my treatment and gradually became healthy again. I have to go for monthly check ups for the next two years, but my doctors said my chemotherapy worked well. I feel better and more energetic day after day.

I volunteered at Balding’s main event for two years and learned all about Balding’s programs. In excitement, I went on a Teen Adventure trip to Whistler, which helped me to connect with other teens who were also affected by cancer. It was an amazing trip with lots of fun and laughter. As hard as things seem be sometimes, Balding has made it easier.

Simon Fraser University building front

Last year, I graduated from high school and started university at SFU. I applied for Balding’s Survivorship Bursary. Receiving it has really helped as it lessened my financial burdens of buying books and paying for residence.

The experience of having leukemia was horrible. But now, it is a part of my life that makes me who I am today. Balding has helped me to realize that I was not alone in this journey, and that support is always around.

-Deanna Liu


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