Meet Val: A Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma Survivor

VIDEO | 03:34

Hear from Val, a survivor of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, as she celebrates her high school graduation.

Show transcript

So I was first diagnosed when I was 12 years old. I had a lump on my neck, and it turned out to be non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

I remember the doctor pulling us out of the emergency room, my husband and I. And I knew what he was going to say because doctors don't pull you out when they have something good to say.

My mom told me. She said that I had lymphoma.

I told her she was going to be OK and that she was going to need treatment. I decided right away I wanted to go to Memorial Sloan Kettering. And as soon as we got there, I just felt like this is awful, but everything is going to be OK.

Cancer treatment is more like a marathon than a sprint. In general, you're going to be seeing these families in the worst periods of their lives. And then, you become sort of like their best friend.

Val is definitely special. She is someone that from the very first time you can identify as someone who was brave, who was ready to fight and to beat her cancer. I went through a year and a half of chemotherapy, and then I was in remission for about a year and a half after that.

She was practicing for varsity tennis. She wanted to make the varsity tennis team.

And I had pain on my back, coming around like my ribs. And I thought she just pulled a muscle. But within a couple of days, she couldn't really even talk through the pain. It was that bad.

When I went to the ER, that's when I found out I had relapsed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

It is very hard if the cancer returns. I think at that point, we have to pick ourselves up and realize that there are other options for them. And that's why MSK Kids is special.

They kept treating her and calling everybody in that they needed to call so that they could go ahead with the next treatment, which was an experimental treatment. It's since FDA approved, but at that time it wasn't. It was still experimental.

CAR-T cells now are all over the newspaper. Everything. They weren't all over the newspaper at that point. So this was a very brave family willing to take a chance with us, with something made in the laboratories here at Memorial Sloan Kettering.

And she went into remission.

For Val to do that at her young age was brave. And now to see her today graduating, it just really is touching.

To be able to celebrate this accomplishment with people who know exactly how difficult it was to get here is incredible.

We're very fortunate to have the privilege of taking care of Val, to see her strength, her determination. And to see her today now graduating high school and moving on to college is just something that's a remarkable event.

You know, you just take it day by day. And suddenly graduation is here. And it's just amazing that we've come this far. Really, that we've come this far.