Determined to Beat Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Diagnosed with AML at the age of 20, Carson Mapes continues to fight her cancer.

“You have cancer.” Those words will forever ring in my ear. It all began at the end of December 2022. I began bleeding from the gums, it was happening almost every day. However, I had no idea why and neither did my doctor. This continued until the middle of January, when I also began having frequent heavy nose bleeds. I also noticed myself being very tired, out of breath, and having a loss of appetite. On top of all these symptoms, I was experiencing intense upper back pain. I tried everything, a heating pad, ice, and even muscle rub. Nothing helped. I was up all hours of the night crying in pain, I couldn’t even sit back on the couch.

On February 22, 2023, I fainted at work from excruciating back pain. When I arrived at the ER they gave me pain medicine, ordered a CT scan, and ran blood work. It was painful to lie on my back long enough to complete the scan. What should have only taken about five minutes, took me almost thirty.

When I got back to my room, I was swarmed by doctors and nurses. They told me that my blood work was concerning, so they wanted to recheck them. It took over ten attempts before they were able to draw my blood, as my veins would not tolerate the needles. This left me with the worst bruises I have ever seen all over my arms. They were also checking everywhere to see if I was losing blood internally but found no evidence that I was. After the second round of blood work came back, two doctors came in to talk to me. They told me that my platelets were extremely low, causing all the bruising on my skin, including one that wrapped around my arm, and my hemoglobin was so low that they needed to run a more in-depth test.

Here I was, in the ER with my parents, all waiting in silence. Finally, the doctor came back in. He pulled a stool to my bed, and I immediately knew something was wrong. He said that due to my test results I needed to be admitted and transferred to Parkview Regional Hospital in Fort Wayne. Once I got to the new hospital, my back pain stopped, and my entire family started to show up to support me and help calm the nerves. My family is sent from God, they truly get me through all the hard times. The doctor then came in and began telling me a course of action including chemotherapy. I was extremely confused, as no one told me I had cancer. My aunt asked the doctor if I had cancer, and he replied with “Yes, she has acute myeloid leukemia.” I was in complete shock and blocked out everything anyone said after that. My family was there for quite a while, and we prayed. After they all left, I was alone with my parents, and I finally processed what I had been told. I remember just breaking down and praying to God to help me get through this. I was officially diagnosed with AML on February 23, 2023.

The next morning, I had my first bone marrow biopsy. The biopsy confirmed what they already expected, AML that was multiplying very quickly. I was then told that I would receive seven days of induction chemo, and that I had to stay in the hospital for a month until my counts recovered. Hearing this made everything stop. I was twenty years old. I was supposed to be seeing my favorite artist with my best friend that month. I will never forget telling her I had cancer, it was some of the worst pain. I encouraged her to still go to the concert and live it for the both of us.

However, I got a FaceTime call, and when I answered it was my favorite singer. My best friend got Jaden Hossler to FaceTime me, and he gave me so much encouraging advice. That night she called during one of our favorite songs, I got to hear him dedicate that song to me. I will forever be grateful to her and Jaden for making that night happen for me. Induction chemo was incredibly tough, but I never let it bring me down. Even on my bad days, I chose to remain positive and rely on God.

Finally, after a long month, I got to come home. However, I was extremely sick and was sent to Indianapolis to speak about having a bone marrow transplant. After a three-hour appointment with the doctor, he determined a transplant was my best chance at beating this disease. The first week of the transplant is the most crucial. I was given five days of chemo, a day of radiation, and then received donated stem cells – my mom’s! I owe her my life. She is so selfless, has been here every day and never lets me give up. After my transplant, it was extremely hard. I was spiking fevers they couldn’t control, and I wasn’t able to handle some of the medicine. I am still battling graft vs host disease.

Nonetheless, I am so grateful to still be alive. I owe all my thanks to my doctors, family, and God. My cancer journey is far from over, but I am grateful to have a wonderful support system. I have a wonderful, healing God. It won’t be easy, but I am a fighter. Cancer chose the wrong person.

Whether you are a patient, survivor, caregiver or loved one touched by cancer, your story can have an enormous impact. You can provide hope and inspiration to someone recently diagnosed with cancer or a patient undergoing therapy.

Share Your Story