Childhood Cancer Survivor Focuses on Making Changes for Future Fighters
Written by Riley Holleran, ISF Marketing Intern
“I really didn’t recognize myself once my hair started to fall out and felt like I was a completely different person, almost like the real me was on the outside watching all of the changes I was going through.”
Brendi Bluitt is a fantastically thriving 23-year old graduate student at UNCC. She is also one of the lovely Intern leads for ISF from this past summer. Though when she was 13 years old, she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Her whole world was turned upside down during some of the most transformative years of her life. At first, her cancer presented itself as Ewing’s Sarcoma, which sheds light on the part of cancer that many people do not talk about, that sometimes figuring out and diagnosing the correct type of cancer can be extremely tricky. It may present itself as one type, but look completely different a few weeks later. She was treated at Brenner Children’s in Winston Salem, NC. Her treatment lasted for 2.5 years.
Losing her hair during treatment impacted her greatly. She did not feel like herself during her treatment, like another person looking in on her own life. Also, her cancer journey happened during such formative years.
“Being a teenager, all you want to do is fit in and feel normal, and I could not have that opportunity.”
Due to Brendi’s treatment, she had no immune system, so she could not attend her freshman year of high school and had to participate in remote instruction. She felt like everyone was moving on without her and she could only sit at home and wait. Brendi luckily had a strong support system that kept her going in the hard times, with her 3 siblings keeping her company as soon as they came home from school.
There were times, Brendi was taking 20 plus pills a day during her cancer treatment. Sometimes she had to crush the pills and put them in food or drink due to her not being very good at taking pills at that age. She felt overwhelmed and stressed and not in the typical way a 13-year-old normally does. She was battling cancer, while most kids were trying to get through geometry. She said, “It just felt like some days they were never-ending.”
While cancer may have been the hardest thing she has gone through, she has come out stronger because of it. Brendi says she gained a lot from her experience. “My faith in God was strengthened, I made new friends who were also survivors, and I have used my experience to direct my career path.” After learning the minimal funding and research options available for pediatric cancer, Brendi decided she wanted to work in a public office to allocate more funding and resources for pediatric cancer and other rare child health illnesses.
“Kids are our future and they deserve a fighting chance to beat cancer, and I believe our public officials should take more of an active role in making that happen.”
Along with grad school, Brendi also has a podcast with her friend called “Not Your Average BS” and spoke about her cancer journey in September on episode 34: Surviving Pediatric Cancer & Moving Forward in honor of childhood cancer awareness month.
We are so proud of how this cancer survivor is marching forward to make changes for future fighters!