Imagine hearing a doctor say one of the most dreaded words: leukemia. Now, imagine hearing that word not once, but twice, in your lifetime.(2011) – Devin Duncan doesn’t have to imagine. The first time she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), she was only 3. A plucky toddler with three older siblings, she was more concerned with keeping up with them than with what any doctor had to say.
For the next two-and-a-half years, Devin underwent chemotherapy. Finally, the day came when she heard another word—remission—which she and her parents celebrated by throwing a party at Texas Children’s Hospital.
“To be honest, I don’t remember being sick,” Devin said. “I remember having a party at my last chemotherapy session and saying good-bye to all of my nurses. I remember wearing a t-shirt that said, ‘This is my last chemo treatment,’ and having a lot of fun.”
For 13 years, Devin returned to a life of school, friends and family. A member of her high school drill team, she loved to dance and watch sports, especially football. Then, at a routine examination last February, her physician again said the dreaded word.
“There was something wrong with my blood work,” Devin said. “That’s when we found out my leukemia had returned.”
According to Devin’s father, Mike, the leukemia had not only returned, it had returned with a vengeance.
“It’s the same type of leukemia, but this strain requires more aggressive treatment,” Mike said.
Today, Devin returns to Texas Children’s for outpatient chemotherapy one full day each month, plus she spends three or so days as an inpatient.
“Devin’s the ‘granny’ of the floor,” her mother, Debbie, laughed. “Because she’s been through this before, the other kids kind of look up to her. Plus, she’s one of the oldest on the unit.”
“To be honest, all they really want to do is have me play with them,” Devin said with a smile.
The optimistic teen impresses everyone she meets with her positive attitude.
“I know that I’m the only one who can control whether I’m happy or not,” Devin said. “And I choose to be happy.”
When not undergoing treatment at Texas Children’s, Devin works on school projects at home or goofs off with her friends. She hopes to attend the University of Texas next year, and one day become a social worker. Her job of choice?
“I want to come back to Texas Children’s Cancer Center and work with patients,” Devin said. “My social worker has already told me that by the time I graduate college and come back, I can take over for her. That sounds good to me.”