Sara Lipsky
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
March 2020
3 Min Read

One Mom’s Journey with Her Daughter’s Leukemia Diagnosis

I often find myself spewing lots of facts and statistics about why the need for support of cancer cures is so great, but at the end of the day it’s the stories that speak the loudest. This week, Nancy Raza, mom of 13-year-old Cami, of Port Washington, has so generously agreed to share their family’s journey.

After the first two laps, she is coming up for air more frequently, something is going on. My eyes are set on her little body in that pool. The race is over, and I run down the steps to meet her. As I hug her and wipe her tears, Coach Karla doesn’t know what to say. I think to myself, “She was supposed to earn the gold medal.” She is disappointed. I know she’ll bounce back!

Cami is my competitive swimmer and so much more. She has a beautiful spirit. She is caring and nurturing; sweet and unselfish. She is both a wonderful daughter and big sister.

In the weeks that followed that swimming meet, she comes home tired from school. It is taking her longer than usual to finish her homework. She is struggling to get up in the mornings after a good night’s rest. I take her to see the pediatrician. He tells me, “It’s nothing to be concerned about, her body is going through some changes. She may simply need to catch up on rest.”

On July 13, 2015 the story changes. The pediatrician doesn’t dismiss me as usual. He looks concerned. He calls another doctor and they start to whisper. He turns to me, and says, “I want you to take her to Cohen’s to run some tests” “Don’t go home, head straight there, they are expecting you. Ask your husband to meet you there.”

With those words my heart sinks! I sit in the parking lot looking at Cami through the rear-view mirror. No matter what they think it is, she is going to be ok. I can’t move. I can’t think, all I can do is cry and pray.

Once at the hospital, every passing minute feels like an eternity. Hours pass and no one tells us anything. My husband and I are scared, worried, and anxious. We cannot show any of it. We don’t want Cami to pick up on it.

A doctor finally comes in and asks to speak to my husband and I privately. As we follow her to a room, a million things go through my mind, but none of it compares to what I was about to be told.
“We believe your daughter has leukemia.”

My heart stops. No, it can’t be! Leukemia is cancer and cancer means death. “Are you 100% positive?” I ask. The doctor says, “I’m sorry, but we are going to have to admit her and run more tests. The survival rate is 96% and she is in good hands…”

At that moment I shut down. I don’t hear a word she is saying… survival rate, treatment, chemotherapy. . . My baby is not sick, she is not going to die. I start to pray. I need God, I need strength, and I need to know what to do.

At night, I wait for her to fall asleep so I can cry my heart out! Sometimes she wakes up as I pray over her. She tries to comfort me! Telling me not to worry, that everything will be alright.

She is starting to lose her hair. One morning she sits on the bed holding bunches of long hair in her fists and starts to cry. My heart aches so much.

The final day of treatment arrives in which she rings the bell, symbolizing her last treatment. It was one of the most joyous days of our lives.

We had several celebrations. There were so many people to thank, who stood with us through it all. Now I could finally take a sigh of relief and finally say SHE is a SURVIVOR! Today she is 27 months in remission.

Cancer changed our perspective of life. Every day is a gift. I have learned to prioritize and not let small things get to me. Sometimes watching a movie and letting the dishes wait until the morning is what needs to be done! Life is simply too precious!