Leukemia survivor still grateful for childhood cancer programs
In some ways, 2005 was a challenging year for Carrington Marzett. The 15-year-old sophomore was still settling in after a recent move from Oklahoma to Midland, Texas. Then, she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
“It was rough going through cancer treatment while I was still getting acclimated to a completely new place,” says Carrington, now 31. “I lost my hair twice, so I always wore a bandana. And I had to debunk some crazy rumors going around about why I was in class one day but gone the next.”
“Would I ever want to do it again? No,” Carrington laughs. “But I wouldn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me either. Because I got to do all these fun things — like attend concerts and camps — because of MD Anderson. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that if I was just a regular kid. That was one of the best times of my life.”
An acute lymphoblastic leukemia diagnosis
Carrington’s parents brought her to MD Anderson after a bruised knee turned out to be acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the most common childhood blood cancer.
“It started out with just some knee pain,” she notes. “Normally, I played the oboe. But in marching band, I played the xylophone. And one day, I was tapping out the beat on my leg with a mallet. It really hurt, so my dad took me to a sports medicine doctor.”
The specialist diagnosed Carrington with a bruised patella (knee cap), and recommended rest, elevating the leg and anti-inflammatory medication. But the pain didn’t get any better. Carrington’s parents took her to an orthopedist next, who detected anomalies in her bloodwork and saw “stuff protruding out of my growth plate” on an MRI. That specialist sent her to an internist for more comprehensive blood tests.
“The internist called a few days later to give my parents the news,” Carrington says. “When they asked him for a recommendation, he told them if I were his daughter, he’d take me to MD Anderson.”
Finding joy during acute lymphoblastic lymphoma treatment
Carrington’s parents took that doctor’s advice. And at MD Anderson, her leukemia was treated with eight rounds of intensive chemotherapy. After that, she was put on a maintenance dose for almost three years to keep the cancer from coming back.
“I went into remission fairly quickly,” remembers Carrington. “So, I didn’t need a stem cell transplant. I did have to spend my 16th birthday in the hospital, though, which was a bummer. The chemotherapy made me temporarily diabetic, so I couldn’t have any cake. But the nurses did their best to make that day as special as they could.”
Carrington took her mind off of treatment by practicing the oboe and working on art projects.
“Staying busy while you’re going through cancer treatment is so important,” she says. “Music therapy and the Children’s Art Project really kept me occupied. They gave me something to look forward to. More than 10 of my art designs ended up being used on holiday cards, tree ornaments, and other merchandise. It was really exciting.”
Being around other children also brought Carrington a lot of comfort. “I made some really close connections at MD Anderson,” she notes. “We were all leaning on each other for support.”
Pleased to be paying it forward
As an adult, Carrington was delighted to discover that her father’s employer, Sunoco, is one of the subsidiaries of Energy Transfer LP — an organization that has given more than $8 million to MD Anderson since 2014.
“It means so much to know that the company he works for is giving back,” she says.
The funds support research and patient care initiatives at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital.
“I’m glad that Energy Transfer’s support is helping MD Anderson treat other kids, too.”