Cancer survivor encourages others to give back
Rachelle Drummond required countless blood transfusions to survive cancer as a child
Edmonton native, Rachelle Drummond, knows first-hand the vital role blood donors play in supporting lifesaving care. When she was five years old, Rachelle was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a type of blood cancer.
“I’d had cancer for approximately five months before it was detected,” said Rachelle. “The blood counts from my first day in the hospital came back showing 50,000 cancer cells in my blood. I had 10,000 white blood cells when I was admitted, which was extremely high and indicated the severity of my cancer.”
Rachelle was pulled out of kindergarten and immediately began receiving countless blood transfusions as part of her treatment.
“The cancer came hard and it came strong. My spine had turned black from bruises. I was pale from a lack of healthy blood cells, had bleeding gums and my hair fell out three times,” recalls Rachelle. “Due to my diagnosis and its severity, I temporarily lost the ability to walk and was forced to use a wheelchair.”
Rachelle was in the hospital for ten months followed by almost three years of chemotherapy.
“It was during this time that I began to learn how to walk again, I celebrated my first Christmas and birthday in the hospital, and my family learned that chemotherapy breaks you down before it builds you up.”
Rachelle remembers the impact treatment had on her young life.
“Instead of my backpack being filled with stickers and crayons and all five-year-old essentials, I had 12 medications with me that I would take daily and extra hospital masks that I would wear throughout the day because my immune system was so low.”
In 2006, at the age of 13, Rachelle was declared free of cancer and entered her remission period. To this day, she goes for annual appointments to monitor her health. This will continue throughout her life.
“I am now 14 years cancer-free and am so grateful for the incredible life that I live, and all of those who have helped me, supported me and cheered me on throughout my journey and now,” said Rachelle.
Rachelle’s parents and sister have become regular blood donors in appreciation of the donors who helped save her life.
“Once they became old enough, my friends and family also became regular donors because I can’t.” Following her diagnosis and into her survivorship, it has been Rachelle’s utmost priority to use her experiences to give back to the community who helped her, help others and turn a hard life experience into something positive and beautiful.
“It’s really important for me to help people meet someone who has actually needed blood. To put a face to a statistic or story that they may have seen on social media.”
Rachelle at 22, dedicated to helping others
Having just marked her 22nd birthday, Rachelle reflects on her journey thus far and is grateful to be able to thank donors for the gifts they give to help save people like her.
“As strange as it sounds, I am very grateful for my past experiences as they have given me the opportunity to turn something that was so negative into a positive influence that can really help a lot of other people,” she said.
Rachelle’s dedication to her community and her passion for public speaking have helped her pursue her goals.
“For years now, I have been volunteering with both the Edmonton and Calgary childhood cancer associations (Kids with Cancer Society and Kids Cancer Care) , as well as being a spokesperson for various pediatric cancer campaigns including work with Canadian Blood Services.”
Rachelle is motivated by the feeling she gets when speaking to kids or families and her ability to identify with their experience and offer hope.
"It is such a full circle experience and it’s hard for me to put into words, but my career path is something that I have never questioned. It is so important to me to pursue a career where I can give back and positively impact people’s lives,” shared Rachelle. “My next goal in life is to be a pediatric doctor and provide the same incredible care to children that I was fortunate to get from my doctors.”
This exceptional young woman graduated in April with a degree in psychology and political science from MacEwan University in Edmonton and has applied to pursue a master’s degree in public health policy at the University of Calgary.
Her message to those who have yet to donate is simple.
“The need for blood is constant. It is incredibly important to know how easy it is to donate and how much of a difference it can make.”
“I am now 14 years cancer-free and so grateful to blood donors for the role they played in my recovery,” said Rachelle. “I encourage all eligible Canadians to join the community of donors that help patients like me this holiday season and onward.”
Blood donors are needed this holiday season to book and keep appointments to ensure patients needs are met. Book now at blood.ca, on the GiveBlood app or call 1 888 2 DONATE (!-888-236-6283).