Building a Team of Champions to Combat Blood Cancer
How has blood cancer affected me?
The Colleluori family is a great example of a group that has been so influential in showing how to deal with tragedy by turning it into a positive impact on millions of lives.
My name is KC Peterson and I am a cancer survivor. “Cancer” to me, having lived through it, makes me grasp for anything and everything for which I am thankful. Its being able to enjoying the next breath, waking up with the optimism of a new day, a meal with my family, a hearty laugh with a friend, tears over a broken heart. Cancer takes all of those away.
My experience with cancer was much different from that of Nick’s. To this day I am humbled to be connected, even tangentially to “Head” as everyone who truly knew him so affectionately called him. My experience started the summer of my rising junior year at Haverford College; I was playing lacrosse one fateful day in July in the Eastern PA Lacrosse League when I was slashed clearing the ball. Not foreign to pain being a goalie. I put off the contusion for more than a week until it persisted. At a walk in clinic in Delaware I was given and MRI and shortly after the news was delivered. I like all who have been treated with cancer was immediately scared, confused, and to some extent angry.
Fight, regardless of what my biopsy results were, is what I decided. I remember waking up after the biopsy loaded with various codeines making a slight grin as I heard High Grade Malignant B Cell Lymphoma instead of the much more dangerous T Cell Lymphoma. It was the best “B” I ever received. As it turned out the slash proved to be particularly fortuitous as they were able to diagnose the cancer early. After my biopsy, I was so ready to begin my recovery that I tried to get out of the hospital bed too fast, and actually vomited from the morphine. I realized then it might be a little more of a gradual process. I also decided “cancer” the bastard son of everything awful wasn’t going to prevent me from doing what I wanted. I thought of cancer as a stow away passenger, somebody I would slowly rid myself of. I was living with cancer, not a cancer patient.
Another act from a higher power was being connected with Dr. Schuster. Although, I was originally being treated at Sloan Kettering in New York, I wanted to be back at school, and with my team. Dr. Stephen Schuster, a doctor who’s complete devotion to eradiating cancer is unparalleled, innately took my chart along with biopsy slides and decided he would restain them himself. As a result my diagnosis changed slightly to Diffused High Grade II Malignant B Cell Lymphoma. I underwent chemo treatments at UPenn Hospital watching jealously as my teammates enjoyed fall ball.
Word travels fast in the lacrosse world, and my coach and close friend Mike Murphy had already heard of Nick’s diagnosis. He gave me Nick’s number knowing I would want to give him advice as Kyle Miller (the former Cornell Goalie) had given to me. I told him what to expect from chemo, and gave him what encouragement I could. Nick and I continued to exchange text sparingly throughout the next year. When I recovered that December, Nick’s journey was only beginning. The last time we talked he was telling me how he was going to devote his life to helping others with cancer. I never met Nick face to face, but through the phone I could feel his genuine concern for others. He was confident, simply stating this is what I am going to do, and I believed it. He was going to do what so many couldn’t, myself included; make his experience something to learn from.
In the end with cancer, it’s a coin flip of who wins or loses. Good people die, bad people live, it doesn’t choose. For those of us made to go through it we are given a choice, how are we going to live the next year, day, moment. Cancer compels me to be more, to do more, to be better. In Nick, and his enduring message “make use of the time you have,” I know he had the same idea, and it is something I carry with me everyday.