When he thinks about his ideal career, Jaziel Olmeda imagines being in a sparkling clean, white hospital ward. His goal: to help children going through pediatric cancer diagnoses. To Olmeda, this is a cause of utmost importance. He knows how much support matters – especially since the support of his community helped get him through his own fight with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Olmeda was just seven years old when his family learned that he had cancer. For the next six years, Olmeda underwent treatment, including two bone marow treatments and a whopping 134 blood transfusions. The memories of his experience still weigh on him. There were points, he says, where he felt lost. As though he didn’t know who he was anymore.
During his journey, Olmeda met people whose impact still resounds today: the nurse who shared her story of being in remission, the blood donors who have made over 300 donations to children just like him. Knowing that people will step up and persevere through difficult times inspired Olmeda. So after his recovery, and as he grew older, he began wondering how to apply his lessons for impact. He chose to become a registered nurse and one day hopes to work at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, bringing his journey full-circle. If he can give hope to just one person, one family, then he has done his part.
About Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL)
Also known as: Acute lymphocytic leukemia
Acute lymphoblastic leukemia is a blood and bone marrow cancer. Instead of mature cells, the bone marrow only produces immature blood cells, which later become cancerous. Doctors don’t know the exact cause of ALL, but they have identified risk factors. These include radiation exposure, prior cancer treatment, certain genetic disorders like Down syndrome, and having a sibling who had ALL. Typically, ALL occurs in children; it is actually the most common form of pediatric cancer. This isn’t to say that ALL cannot occur in adults. It is just more severe and treatment-averse than its pediatric counterpoint. Symptoms of acute lymphoblastic leukemia can include:
- Pallor (extremely pale skin)
- Swollen lymph nodes around the neck, groin, armpits, or abdomen
- Fever and drenching night sweats
- A feeling of fullness below the ribs
- Frequent infections
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual bleeding, such as nosebleeds or bleeding from the gums
- Fatigue and general weakness