February 16, 2022 | by Maddie Sargent

How I Try to Give Back

I had a very different childhood than other kids because I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, or ALL, when I was six years old. 

After many setbacks, my doctor said a bone marrow transplant was my only chance of survival, because I was so far off the treatment protocol. Here I am now, over 13 years later, and still cancer-free!

When I was in treatment, nurses were the only people I got to interact with, aside from my immediate family. The nurses allowed me to perform many Hannah Montana concerts for them, complete coloring books, and even paint their nails. Their support, along with that of my family, helped me have a positive attitude throughout my entire illness.

I hope to one day work as a pediatric oncology nurse and be the same positive influence on children with cancer. I decided from that young age that I wanted to help other kids and their families who are going through the same experience that I had to. That is how I intend to use my talents to make the world a better place in the future, but instead of waiting for the future, I’m trying my best to make it a better place now.

When I was 11 years old, I started doing public speaking for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Over the years, I have given over 50 speeches for them, in groups that ranged from a couple hundred to several thousand people. By giving these speeches, I was able to help the organization raise a tremendous amount of money in order to fund families who are currently battling cancer, as well as help aid in research to find a cure for this terrible disease.

After giving some of those speeches, people have stopped me to tell me I inspired them to help fundraise and try to find a cure. I believe sharing my story with others makes the world a better place because it gives people hope and also shows them a different perspective.  

I’m also trying to make the world better by helping people be physically healthy.During my freshman year at East Carolina, I would go to the gym often to attend fitness classes. One of the instructors there noticed me in her classes and asked if I was interested in teaching fitness classes myself. I thought this would be a great way for me to help other people— by helping them stay physically fit.

However, this was no easy task.

I had to add a group fitness class on top of my other classes because I had to be certified before I started teaching. I also needed to study for the ACE test to receive my certification.  This past summer, I was happy to pass the test, and I started teaching classes last fall.

Teaching fitness classes is one of my favorite things to do at college, because it helps many people along their fitness journeys. However, it does come with its own set of challenges. One day in class I had a mix of college-aged and middle-aged students, as well as an 80-year-old man with asthma. Teaching this class was a challenge, as I had to create a workout that would be impactful for every participant there.

I know very well that being active can help with treatment protocols, because I lived through it.  When I was on the bone marrow floor, we got a plastic foot for every 10 laps we walked through the hallway. Since I was active before my transplant and my mom kept walking with me every day afterwards, I never needed the help of the physical therapist. 

I remember my doctor telling my mom he was impressed at my level of physical activity, and thought it would help my body to heal faster.  I think teaching my fitness classes is already helping people, including myself, to be physically fit, and I hope I’m able to use my certification to help patients in the future, too.

Throughout my life, I have enjoyed helping others by giving speeches to spread awareness and by teaching fitness classes. I know that what I am doing is leaving a positive impact on other people.

After graduation, I hope to continue to help others by following a nursing career path. As someone who’s been on the other side of treatment, I understand how much the attitude of nurses impacts the patient.

I hope to one day give hope to children and their families who are going through what is likely the most difficult time of their lives. 

Maddie Sargent is a Leukemia Survivor and junior at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. She is currently a nursing-intended major, and hopes to one day become a pediatric oncology nurse. When she’s not in class or studying she has many different hobbies, including working out, reading, and spending time with friends and family.

If you’re a CFC Scholar, and you’d like to contribute to this blog, please send your post or idea to melody@cancerforcollege.org.

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Photo credits: Photo by Xan Griffin, Patty Brito, Kane Reinholdtsen, Dylan Gillis,Ross Sneddon