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Diagnosed at age 16

Courtney Alvis

Courtney Alvis of Bessemer remembers the first few months after her 16th birthday – driving to the mall, going to movies and enjoying her newfound independence. But that all changed on November 1, 2010, after what Courtney thought would be a routine visit to the pediatrician.

The pediatrician found that Courtney’s right lung had collapsed and he also feared she might have a much more serious condition – leukemia or perhaps lymphoma. She was sent to Children’s of Alabama. After a bone marrow biopsy and a spinal tap, Courtney was told she had acute T-cell leukemia.

Those words marked the beginning of a journey with the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders that has lasted two years to date – a journey that will continue with maintenance visits until doctors can be sure Courtney has achieved a lasting remission. Courtney says the challenges of cancer treatment have been more difficult than she had first imagined. “I had all of these different side effects – from changes in my weight to losing my hair to neuropathy in my legs. I had to relearn how to walk. I was very tired, too. I wouldn’t even want to pick up the remote to change a television channel because that was too much work.”

Today, Courtney is an 18-year-old high school graduate with her eyes on a goal of becoming a pediatric cancer nurse herself. She will attend Jefferson State Community College on a full scholarship and then enter the nursing program at UAB. After that? “I want to be a hemonc nurse at Children’s,” she says. “That’s the only place I want to work. “Being a cancer patient definitely inspired me to be a nurse,” she adds. “I love the way they are with the patients and the way they get to interact. I love the way that I looked up to my nurses, and I want to be that person the kids look up to. I’ll tell them that even though ‘cancer’ is a scary word, you really can push forward through it – just don’t give up on yourself.”
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