In 2007, Gardasil was a new vaccine which was supposed to make you one less girl who had to worry about cervical cancer. My parents thought it would be a wonderful way to protect me as I grew up. How could we have known the first injection would set off a chain of events that would alter my life forever?
At 12 years old, sports were a huge part of my life. Basketball, soccer, softball, dodge-ball, lacrosse – you name it. If it involved outdoor recreation, you could probably find me there.
I got my first Gardasil shot on the 23rd of April 2007. Shortly after, I started getting strange bruises on my arms and legs. No one thought much of it because we all assumed I had been injured playing the sports I so dearly loved. None of us thought it might be connected to the vaccine I had recently received.
May 29, 2007, I received the second injection. The unusual bruising got worse. Over the weekend of June 29th and 30th I hemorrhaged for two hours during each day. When I went to the doctor on Monday, they immediately sent me to the hospital to meet with a pediatric hematologist. I left the hospital with a diagnosis of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP).
According to the Mayo Clinic, Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), also called immune thrombocytopenic purpura, is a blood-clotting disorder that can lead to easy or excessive bruising and bleeding. ITP results from unusually low levels of platelets — the cells that help your blood clot.
Because of my low platelet count, I could not play any of the sports I loved for over a year. This was very hard for me to understand and accept. It made me very sad not to be able to participate in the activities that I loved. It was difficult to watch everyone else playing and having fun, while my activities were being limited.
Looking back, I can see how when one door closes, another opens. Because I couldn’t play sports, I had extra time to do other things. I discovered a passion for music and began to take private voice lessons and a musical theater class. Since I was unable to play sports, I began to focus on singing and performing.
In the past few years, I have become a very successful classical singer. I have won some prestigious awards and have been accepted into some excellent colleges for vocal performance with a concentration in music education, or music therapy. Had it not been for the extra time I had, I may have never have discovered my musical talent. Now, I focus most of my energy on singing and the performing arts. I am not sure that would have happened if my life had not been changed by ITP. My career path has definitely been influenced by the diagnosis which set me on a path that I am pleased to be on.
When I was first diagnosed, I had to have a treatment in the hospital. A music therapist was working with another young patient nearby, and I thought that it was a very interesting occupation. I often think about combining my passion for music with my love of children and focusing on either music education, or music therapy in college.
I had the opportunity to work with kids as a counselor at a 4-H camp, a teacher’s helper at a “Kid’s College” summer program and as a junior high student director for our school’s junior high musical. My personal life experiences help me to relate to children and understand some of their problems. I have become more accepting of people and definitely more caring toward people with difficulties. I have acquired a positive outlook and a joy for life that will enable me help those who are struggling with their own issues.
Both of my parents are high school teachers and enjoy working with students. Although I had never thought about teaching, I am now seriously considering it as an occupation. I see the positive impact teachers can make on young people. I know teachers play a very important role in our lives and I would love to share my passion for music, theater, sports and life with children from all walks of life.
I have learned some valuable life lessons through my experiences with ITP. One of the biggest lessons is that just because things don’t go the way you want; it doesn’t mean that your ‘new’ life won’t be better.
I joined the Junior Varsity and Varsity Soccer and Softball teams, even when I couldn’t play because my platelets were too low. Some months I had my blood tested each week, just in case my platelets were high enough to be cleared to play. I learned that even through all of life’s disappointments, you can still keep a positive outlook and make positive contributions to your team.
I learned to look at the good things in life, even though I was very sad about the way my life had changed.
I learned that each day is a new challenge. When I could finally play soccer and softball again, I truly appreciated the opportunity and gave my all during practices and games. I am a successful soccer goalie and softball pitcher. I was so glad to be able to play sports during my junior and senior years of high school. I appreciate all that I am finally able to do again.
I learned that if you set high standards for yourself, anything is possible. I know my platelets can drop at any time, changing the activities I can participate in. Now, I have enough other interests that I know I will be fine no matter what happens.
Although I will have ITP for the rest of my life, I am otherwise a very healthy person. I feel blessed to be able to go to school every day and participate in a broad range of activities. I believe my experiences with ITP have transformed me into a positive role model. I will graduate from high school 7th in my class and am looking forward to going to college in the fall. It is exciting to begin a new chapter in my life.
ITP has changed my life in more good ways than bad. I have learned to overcome hardship and disappointments. I believe that my trials and triumphs with ITP have made me a stronger person. I look forward to the future.