Terra, Diagnosed at 13, acute lymphoblastic leukemia

Terra started writing poetry almost as soon as she could hold a pencil, but she never thought of it as a talent – just a fun way to think about her feelings. Then she was diagnosed with cancer.(1999) – When she wrote the poem “The Warrior,” Terra was in the toughest fight of her young life, but she wanted to give a voice to other children she saw suffering with cancer.

“I wrote it because I saw so many kids smiling on the outside but crying when they were alone,” she said. “Kids are strong and resilient, but they’re just kids.”

Terra was an active eighth-grader when she was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Before coming to Texas Children’s, she was treated by a physician unaccustomed to giving bone marrow tests to a child.

“The tests were terrible,” said Terra’s mom, Sue. “They put her to sleep, but she woke up during the procedure. You can’t imagine how horrible it is to stand outside a room and hear your child screaming like that.”

Finally, they turned to Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

“Texas Children’s was so awesome,” Terra remembers. “As soon as we got there everything was OK.”

Although Terra had intensive chemotherapy, she has fond memories of Texas Children’s. “They make it so much fun,” she said. “They have so much to offer and so many ways to spend your time.”

Terra Phillips in 2010

Terra Phillips in 2010 with son Branson, 10 years after her battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia when she was 13 years old.

“Having cancer allowed me to see everything in a new perspective,” she said. “I’ve seen miracles, and I really appreciate every second of life.”

Terra’s experience with cancer also helped shape her career choice. She is studying biomedical science at Texas A&M University and plans to be a physical therapist. Upon graduation, Terra would like to work with disabled children, an interest that developed when she was a camper and counselor at Camp Periwinkle, a summer camp for Texas Children’s Cancer Center patients.

“I have experienced so much, but I consider myself lucky,” she said. “What I’ve been through helps me relate to kids. They have an inner strength they don’t know they have.”