Victoria Newton's story
Life. It’s a simple, four-letter word with so much meaning. It’s an incredible journey full of surprises, challenges, joys and sorrows. Some are easier than others, and in the end, it’s really what you decide to make it. It’s so precious and in an instant, it can take a turn for the very best, or very worst. I remember the day my life was flipped upside down and backwards. It was Dec. 20, 2004. The day when I heard the three-words most everyone (especially parents) are afraid to hear: “You have cancer.”
Wait, what? Cancer? Me? Why? What did I ever do to deserve this? I’m only 14, I just started high school, I was making new friends, moving on with life, becoming an adult, starting to think about college and what I want my future to look like. Life was looking so good. I had dreams, plans, goals and all of the sudden, I felt like all of those were taken away from me and replaced with a disease.
I was diagnosed with stage III Hodgkin’s lymphoma. My wonderful Oncologist, Dr. Meaghan Granger, told me that if I had waited another month, I would have died. When I heard that, how close I was to death, it was like someone came up and punched me in the stomach. Hearing the plans my oncologists were making for chemotherapy treatment, and what my life would look like from here on out flooded my mind with so many questions. I couldn’t help but ask myself: “Will I live to see tomorrow?” “Can my life really end this early?” “Will I ever go to college, get married, have a family, move to New York or become a designer?” “Will I ever be ‘normal’ again?”
I knew I wasn’t going to give up and I would fight with all that I had to beat this cancer. I decided right then and there I wasn’t going to let cancer get in the way of my dreams of moving to New York City and becoming a fashion designer. When I started chemotherapy, most of my friends said their goodbyes and left me for dead. I was so devastated. The one time I really needed my friends by my side, they abandoned me. Most of them could not handle my new appearance. I was bald, no eyelashes, or eyebrows, and I had gained a lot of weight. I felt defeated because I couldn’t be the cool girl in school like my friends, but instead I was “the girl with cancer.” However, today, I look back and I’m proud to be “the girl that HAD cancer.” It was because I was sick that I am where I am today.
On the days when I went through chemotherapy I would always bring my sketchbook and sewing machine to the medical center and entertain myself during my rounds of chemo. Fashion was my outlet, and I felt my best when I could create something and see the finished product, or sketch an incredible dress that could perhaps walk on a runway someday. It was because of the incredible staff at Cook Children’s and support groups they offer that led me further down the road to my dreams. As a teen I attended cancer teen support group every month were I made some of my very best friends for life. Cook Children’s also allowed me to go to several cancer camps, weekend retreats, proms, and special VIP events. I got to meet a lot of amazing people who were also battling cancer though those events and it helped me become a more independent and well-rounded adult. Through those programs I realized I wasn’t the only one going through this. The other teens I met inspired me more everyday to keep pushing forward and keep fighting for my dreams.
I graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Apparel Design and Product Development in December 2013. Today, I am a proud survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma of almost 10 years! I’m also very blessed to say that I am living the very dream that kept me going when I wanted to give up. I am now living in New York City and have an amazing career as a jewelry designer for the legendary Macy’s.
As I write this blog on the rooftop of my apartment in midtown Manhattan, I reflect on the short 24 years I have lived. Even though my road to recovery has been bumpy, I made it! I believe that I have arrived where I am supposed to be. I have been faced with death and I learned at a young age to live everyday like it’s your last and to dream big dreams. Now, as a pediatric cancer survivor I want to do everything I can to give back and say “thank you.” If I had one wish, I would wish that no child would ever have to go through what I did. Even though I made it through, not everyone is as fortunate.
Cancer has taken too many precious lives that I loved, and I try my best to live every day to honor the ones that couldn’t live out their dreams. It’s time to raise awareness and put an end to pediatric cancer. So I’m asking you on behalf of those who are currently battling, who have survived, and the ones I loved who ultimately succumbed to their battles to stand up and be the voice. Please join me and take a photo using the hashtag #erasekidcancer. Together, we can find a cure and make pediatric cancer a thing of the past!