By Ashley Otstott
My journey with cancer started just two days before my fourth birthday.
On Sept. 17, 2001, I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Shortly after I was admitted to Penn State Children’s Hospital, my family and I were introduced to Four Diamonds. They helped pay for all of my medical bills that were not covered by my insurance, and they also gave my parents meal vouchers for the hospital cafeteria and gas cards.
This was a huge help to my parents! Because they didn’t have to worry about how they were going to pay for my treatment, they were able to focus on getting me healthy again. During my treatment, I had to have a bone marrow biopsy, as well as many spinal taps and chemotherapy injected into my spine. I also had blood and platelet transfusions, chest X-rays, routine lab work, steroids and chemotherapy by mouth on a daily basis. My treatment lasted 26 months, and I finished on Nov. 13, 2003. I always say the best thing about having cancer was getting to experience THON. I attended my first THON in February 2002 and have gone every year since. At my first THON, I didn’t know what to expect, but I have grown to love this event with all of my heart. THON 2018 will be my 17th THON and my second one as a Penn State student. Ever since being diagnosed with cancer, I knew that when I grew up I wanted to go to Penn State and be a part of THON. I knew that I wanted to give back to the organization that helped save my life. During my freshman year at Penn State Harrisburg, I joined Penn State Harrisburg Benefiting THON, which is an amazing group of students who have joined the fight to end childhood cancer. I was a very involved general member during my freshman year and went to almost every event we held for THON 2017. This year I was chosen to be a Family Relations Captain for Penn State Harrisburg Benefiting THON 2018. I am the contact for one of our three Four Diamonds patients and provide updates on events we have planned and help wherever needed. I hope to eventually dance in THON before I graduate from Penn State. I absolutely love getting to give back to THON by being a THON volunteer and being a part of the largest student-run philanthropy in the world! I am proud to say that as of Nov. 13, 2017, I will celebrate being 14 years cancer free! Thanks to all of my doctors and nurses in Hershey, I am getting to live my dream of being a Nittany Lion!