“Hi, my name is Giavanna, but I’m known as Gia for short. I am an 18-year-old girl who has had a life changing experience these past few months, and boy has it been a wild ride. I never would have predicted my life to be like this.
I had just graduated high school on June 1st and I was preparing for an exciting summer with my family and friends. I also could not wait to start at Sam Houston State University in fall. But something did not feel right, I felt a small bump in my right groin area a couple days prior to graduation. That bump then grew in size and became painful as well as painful to walk. My pediatrician told me it was ‘lymphadenitis’, but she was also curious to find out what it really was. Days went by and I started to experience night sweats and severe back pain. Pills weren’t working, and I was desperate to find an answer to fix this.
I went to New York from June 8th-13th to see family and friends but was in dire pain the whole trip. I almost didn’t come home and had my grandparents take me to my old doctor. But I came home and the next day I had my dad take me to the pediatrics again and to get x rays on my back. On June 15th my doctor called my dad and told me to take me to the ER immediately. Once there, numerous tests were run on me and we were told my white blood cell count was 54,000. They admitted me to keep me for more testing. Flashforward 5 days later on June 20th my world was stopped. I was informed I had non-Hodgkin’s Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma Cancer. Chemotherapy started the next day and so did a brand-new life.
The next few months were definitely a challenge. The side effects of chemo were getting to me and my body was changing faster than I could catch my breath. Surprisingly, the decision to go bald was an easy one. But during my third cycle of chemo, I almost lost my life. I had 3 separate allergic reactions to my chemo medicine and the third one was the worst out of all. But thanks to the amazing doctors and nurses at Texas Children’s, I was able to recuperate and be stable again. During this stay is when I was introduced to Sky High. They were some of the nicest group of people I have ever met, and little did I know I would start a great friendship with them.
They kept in touch with me and my family and always checked up on how I was doing. It seemed like after I met them, everything was trending upward with my treatment because I completed my 4th, 5th, and the final 6th round of chemo with ease and no problems. It was now early-mid November and I was going in for my final scans to see how much, if any cancer was left. My doctor said everything looked good and we were heading in the direction of remission. 2 days after thanksgiving I was brought in for a fever, but my hospital stay would end up being a month. That fever lasted a week and a half, and I had back pains again. After I was sent for scans, my doctor had to break the news to me, a relapse. I was so close to the finish line and it just faded away. But I didn’t let the negative thoughts get to me. I promised to myself that during my second fight I would be upbeat and positive throughout because happiness is the best medicine.
Yes, I did spend my 18th birthday in the hospital and almost spent Christmas there, but was thankfully let go December 22nd. The girls at Sky High made sure I got in on the holiday festivities though with their Christmas carnival and not only did it bring me joy but made me feel like a kid again. Sky High has been by my side through my 2nd fight against lymphoma currently and I couldn’t ask for anything more. They have done so much for me and my family and I am glad to be a part of the Sky High family now and in the future. All of the fundraising they do for pediatric cancer is simply amazing and I am so thankful there are people out there who make ending pediatric cancer their number one goal. With all the support from Sky High, family, and friends, I’m confident I will beat cancer the second time around and FOR GOOD!”
Giavanna Gardella gained her angel wings, May 11, 2019.