Stories of progress, inspiration, and information in overcoming osteosarcoma.

AG sitting on a bench with her dog, Victory

Coping with Cancer Treatment: One Patient’s Advice for Brightening the Hard Days

Osteosarcoma survivor Annabelle Grace, who goes by AG, shares her best advice for coping with grueling cancer treatment.

Annabelle Grace, who goes by AG, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma at age 9 after developing severe pain in her left shoulder. The very next day, she started chemotherapy in an effort to shrink her tumor before she could have limb salvage surgery. It worked, and she had surgery in March 2020. Shortly thereafter, the chemotherapy continued — 18 brutal rounds over 15 long months.

AG’s osteosarcoma has been in remission now for 2 ½ years, and the almost-13-year-old has recovered unbelievably well. She is a cheerleader, plays tennis competitively, and manages her school’s volleyball and basketball teams. She is doing well in school, and even speaks publicly about her experience. AG is vibrant and positive, but there were days during treatment when she didn’t want to get out of bed — plenty of them.

Today, AG wants to help other osteosarcoma patients cope with the rigors of treatment. She shares her best advice for living with cancer in hopes that it will make it a little easier for someone else to get through the bad days.

Know that the first few weeks will be difficult.

The first couple of weeks after a cancer diagnosis are the hardest, says AG, “because everything is so uncertain. You just got the news, and you’re still in shock and kind of scared. Then you’re getting your port put in and still getting to know your surroundings. Push through those first few weeks.”

While the first few weeks can be overwhelming, know that things will calm down.

“After that, things get pretty consistent; you’ll get into a rhythm,” says AG. “And then you’ll sort of know what to expect, and it will be less scary.”

Make friends with the doctors and nurses.

During those first few weeks of cancer treatment, AG’s parents and grandparents were able to visit her in the hospital, which made the start of treatment more bearable. Then the pandemic limited her to only one visitor. But AG didn’t let that keep her from socializing. She quickly made friends with her doctors and nurses.

“I would get in a rhythm of seeing the same nurses,” says AG. “We would go for walks around the hallways, or I would get to sit in their nurses’ station, or they would play games with me. I still see the same doctors to this day, so it was good to bond with them.”

Distract yourself with activities you enjoy.

Bad days are to be expected when you’re going through treatment, but try not to dwell on them, AG and her mom advise. As AG puts it, “Make it amazing even when you feel bad.”

“There were certainly some very hard days when she just wanted to pull the blanket over her head and not face the day,” says Leslie, AG’s mom. “But we tried not to stay in that place for very long. We would always find some way to brighten the day, be thankful, and push forward to the next one.”

“I want other kids to know they are loved and their life matters. Don’t give up. Keep living and keep fighting. There is always hope.” — Annabelle Grace

Distraction was key to surviving cancer treatment. Leslie always packed activities to keep AG occupied during scan days and hospital admissions. It started with crayons and coloring pages. But as AG got older, they had to get more creative. Here are some of the ways they entertained themselves:

  • Putting together Lego sets
  • Mixing up slime
  • “Baking” mug cakes in the hospital microwave
  • Doing escape room games
  • Playing Uno with friends over FaceTime
  • Doing Instagram takeovers on mom’s account

Remember that you are loved and your life matters.

Most importantly, AG wants kids in treatment to know they are loved and their life matters.

“That’s what my parents told me throughout my treatment; it’s what helped me get through it,” says AG. “I want other kids to know that, too. Don’t give up. Keep living and keep fighting. There is always hope.”

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