No one ever expects a diagnosis of cancer, but imagine learning that you've been living with an aggressive form of leukemia for two years without knowing.
That's exactly what happened to 20-year-old Aanya Allen. A native of Sharonville, Ohio, Aanya loves dancing, singing, and helping others--and thought that she was living a normal, healthy life.
All of that changed in the course of a day.
"On February 3rd, 2021, I went to my family doctor because my knee was in excruciating pain," she remembers. "That night, I was called and told to get to an emergency room as soon as possible."
What began as a persistent knee pain quickly became a frightening diagnosis: "Upon arrival, I was told I had cancer," she said. "After several tests, I was diagnosed with Acute Leukemia Lymphoblastic (ALL)."
Acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow — the spongy tissue inside bones where blood cells are made. Aanya's bone marrow was making too many immature lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. These immature cells inhibit the production of normal, functioning blood cells that are critical for bringing oxygen to organs, healing wounds, and fighting infections.
But this sudden diagnosis wasn't the most shocking part of her visit to the hospital, she says. "After more tests, I was told I have had cancer for probably two years," she says. "It started out as Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) and because it was missed it changed to ALL. This experience was shocking and devastating."
Aanya's mother Natasha was equally stunned by this sudden news, saying, "We cannot believe that this is happening....this news took several weeks to process and we still are wrapping our mind around all this information we are continually receiving. We feel helpless and it does not seem real."
"As a parent, watching our child battle against cancer is devastating," she adds. "Why our baby? Why us? Is she going to be strong enough to get through this? Is she going to have the desire to fight? Her life is forever changed. Our lives are forever changed."
Aanya's treatment began quickly; ALL is a fast-moving disease, and swift action was necessary to halt the progression of the disease. One of the first actions taken was a transfusion of blood healthy cells to Aanya's bloodstream--something that was readily available, thanks to Hoxworth blood donors.
"There was no time to search for blood; blood was needed immediately," Natasha recalls. "Having the opportunity to be able to have blood available was beyond helpful and took stress off of a life-threatening situation."
Aanya adds that the transfusion was like a breath of life coursing through her veins, saying, "After receiving the blood transfusions, I had an extreme amount of energy!"
Aanya's journey is far from over: As of April 2021, she is still undergoing treatment, and "She will require continued medication or blood products in the near future," according to Natasha. While life has been forever changed for Aanya and her family, they are grateful for the generosity of local donors who will make Aanya's recovery possible.
"People do not realize the importance of donating blood. I am not certain as to why so many hesitate, but my daughter is a living testimony," Natasha says. "Imagine being 100 percent physically healthy, and with a blink of an eye, you are told you have cancer and will need a blood transfusion."
The donated blood coursing through Aanya's veins is why Natasha and the rest of Aanya's family have decided to pay it forward for the next patient to receive a devastating diagnosis.
"Aanya receiving blood inspired us to host a blood drive," Natasha says. "Our family would like to pay as much forward as we can--because blood saves lives."
The Fight with Aanya Blood Drive is scheduled for April 10, 2021. If you are interested in hosting a lifesaving event in honor of a loved one, submit your information to learn more about Hoxworth Special Occasion Blood Drives.