>> Justine Burlock, 17, was diagnosed with cancer last year. After months of treatment, the cancer is in remission, although she still must undergo chemotherapy twice a month at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. If she remains cancer-free, her treatment could end next summer. Justine is a junior at Woodstock Academy and lives with her mother, Noemi Hernandez, in Brooklyn, Conn.
In May of 2007 I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
When we heard the word "leukemia," we really didn't know what it meant, and then Dr. [Eileen] Gillan said it was a type of cancer. As soon as we heard the word "cancer," me and my mom just looked at each other and we just started crying because we thought it was something that was going to kill me. But then [the doctor] said it was very curable since it was cancer in the blood. So we felt better, and we looked at each other and we knew that we could do this.
Chemotherapy was probably the hardest thing I ever had to go through. At first it made me so nauseous — I felt horrible all the time.
They told me that, you know, that it's going to take two to three years of this treatment to make sure that it's completely gone. After hearing that, I felt like giving up because I couldn't stand the way this chemo made me feel — it was just horrible. And then they told me that I'd have to go through spinal taps every once in a while to see if any cancer cells were going up through my spine to my brain.
When I was going through all of this stuff, it was hard to think about anything else but "Oh my God, I have cancer, oh my God, I have cancer!"
But after a while, when I started drawing a couple of pictures, and I started drawing more and more and more, I found out that it helped me so much. ... I wrote a lot of poetry and just a lot of stuff to keep my mind off of it, even though the poetry was about it. It just helped with my emotions and coping with it.
But the really, really, really big and the most scariest moment throughout this entire thing was that I was so afraid of leaving my mom — you know, dying, and just not being able to be with her. I just couldn't imagine what would happen to her because, you know, we're always together. I don't know what she would do if she actually did lose me since I am her only child, and she's like my best friend.
My best moment would probably have to be when I found out that all my cancer was gone. Me and my mom were so happy because we knew we could do it and after that it was just like we were walking on air. We were just like, "Yeah, we beat it!" Nothing can bring us down now, you know?
My name is Justine Burlock, and I am a survivor.
See an audio slide show about Justine Burlock at courant.com/iamCopyright © 2015, CT Now