Jamie and I have been interacting on Instagram for I don’t even know how long now, and I hope to be able to meet her in person someday. I have grown to love her through the things she shares on her platform. Her smile shows that she has found happiness despite her struggles. She went through things a small child should not have to go through, and it has been affecting her all her life but I love the faith she has in our Savior.
Jamie is married to her husband of 19 years and lives in Queen Creek, AZ with her three kids: 17, 14, and 10 years old. She is a convert to The Church and was sealed to her husband in the Las Vegas Temple. She started writing her blog 3 years ago and speaking to the youth. Her passion is helping youth and women feel that they are not alone in their struggles. She wants to help open the conversation about mental health and share her testimony of her Savior. “It’s okay to not always be okay, and there is always hope.”
When I was 9 years old, I spent my entire Christmas break in bed. I had been for weeks and things didn’t seem to be getting any better. I had a few pretty typical flu-like symptoms and others that didn’t make much sense. My body constantly ached, I had fevers off and on and I was extremely pale. I also had leg cramps so severe I couldn’t move at times. I had extra bruises on my body and one that was large and almost black. It had been there for several weeks and all I could remember was bumping into the rounded corner of my desk at school.
When my fever spiked to 104.6, my mom decided to take me in. I was diagnosed with a rare form of Leukemia, called Acute Myelocytic Leukemia. I was given a 25% chance of survival. None of the doctors in the entire state of Nevada knew how to treat me. I was sent to Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles (CHLA) for treatment.
Once I got to CHLA, I immediately had more tests run and started my first dose of chemotherapy. After a little over a week, I was placed in what we called a “bubble room”. It was a back section of the hospital on the pediatric oncology floor dedicated to quarantine treatment. My chemotherapy protocol was so severe that my body would be unable to fight off common ailments. The flu could have been very dangerous. With my immune system completely depleted, I could have easily died from an infection.
The room looked a lot like a typical hospital room; bed, tv, a large cabinet, and sink. What it was lacking was a bathroom. I had a small metal toilet in the middle of the room that I had to use and a makeshift tub that I was only allowed to use a couple times a week. There was a stationary bicycle in the back corner and where the front wall should be there was a large, clear, vinyl curtain that hung from the ceiling.
There was no door to the room, however, if anyone (doctors, nurses, or family) wanted to come into the room with me they had to “suit up”. They would have to put on a medical hazmat suit that covered their entire body and all of their skin. I had to have no skin to skin contact while I was in the room. I spent three months in that room unable to leave even for a moment.
Those three months were very traumatic. Lots of painful procedures, one of which resulted in an accidental temporary paralysis. I was so weak and sick that I had to be placed on a feeding tube for a couple weeks just to be able to get any nutrition.
The nights spent in that room were terrible and felt extremely lonely.
I had miraculously gone into remission much sooner than any of the doctors expected and the plan was to have a bone marrow transplant; the only known cure of Leukemia. After many more setbacks and difficulties with my heart, I never was able to receive the transplant.
I continued the chemotherapy for one year, and five years later was considered completely cured. It was a miracle. Well, many small miracles that kept me in this world.
I had been raised in a few different faiths and after my chemotherapy ended, my mother and I were baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My faith in my Savior sustained me through many years of hard times after that.
As a teenager, I suffered from severe PTSD, Survivor’s Guilt, and depression. Life looks very different to a teenager that has gone through a life or death trauma as a child. I felt like I was squandering my second chance at life while I watched many of my friends pass away from the same disease I was saved from. When I was 17 years old, I planned my suicide. I know that it was by the grace of God that I was able to keep myself from following through with those plans.
I now speak to youth to try and help them feel not so alone in their darkness. I want to help break open the conversation on mental health and help these teens see that there is always hope through our Savior. He is the only one that can be there in the darkness with us, understanding, loving, and guiding us back to the light.
I am beyond grateful for my testimony and faith. I have a very real relationship with my Savior and have literally felt Him in the room with me in some of my darkest moments. I have continued to struggle with PTSD and depression throughout the years. I continue to go to therapy to help get through the traumas I have experienced. It has helped in so many ways.
The one thing though that has and always will be my constant, is my Savior, Jesus Christ. He has always been there and I know it is by His hand that I am still here today and able to love my husband and three miraculous children. This Gospel helps keep me grounded in a scary world where I have no control over health or traumatic things. It is my faith that keeps me going and that keeps hope alive that one day the darkness will all subside, and only light and peace and love will be left in its place.