You couldn't blame a 17-year-old girl who spent the past eight months battling cancer if she preferred to sit on the couch, watch TV and text her friends.
But that isn't how Abi Hamlin operates.
Instead, the senior at River View High School in Finley has barely slowed down since she returned from Children's Hospital in Seattle just before Labor Day.
Since then, she and her mom have traveled to Washington, D.C., to testify before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, advocating for better supplies of vital chemotherapy drugs. And she plans to become involved in an agriculture leadership program at a state level before she heads off to college.
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Today, Abi will share her story with the Kiwanis Club of Kennewick.
And what a story it is.
She was diagnosed with leukemia March 14, after bruises she received while playing for her school softball team refused to go away. The kind of cancer she had wasn't the hardest to treat, but it also didn't end up being easy. From her diagnosis until the end of August, she lived at Children's, where she received four chemotherapy treatments. A fifth was canceled because she had such a bad lung infection, it was too risky to administer.
"I got used to being in the hospital," she said. "People there became my family. Being home is really different because for half a year, I was trapped in a hospital."
During her second chemo treatment, she was supposed to receive a drug called daunorubicin, but because of a nationwide shortage, it had to be substituted for doxorubicin. While the drug killed the cancer, it also caused some horrible side effects because it was much more toxic, said her father, Ty.
"Abigale got soft-tissue sores from her mouth all the way through her digestive tract," he said. "There was no way for her to eat or drink, and her pain was immense."
Doctors prescribed narcotics to ease the pain, but she had a bad experiences with morphine, so they switched her to dilaudid. That caused mood swings and myclonic jerks that kept her awake for three days straight -- and she had to fight through withdrawals when she went off the drug.
That experience led her to Washington, D.C.
"Our nation has a drug shortage," she said. "It's not only chemo. It's also in pediatric care."
The FDA knew about her experiences and wanted to hear from her.
"I had a good story, so they wanted me to use it as an example. There was a big crowd, and we were at a table with microphones. It was a big deal, much bigger than I thought it would be."
Sitting beside her was her mother, Diane.
"She told them that was hard to see me go through this," Abi said. "She saw I'd changed, and she wanted her daughter back. She wanted everyone to know."
Now that she has a taste for politics, Abi just might pursue it as a career one day.
"I want to stand up for something I believe in," she said.
If you want to hear Abi speak about her experience, she will be at the Kiwanis Club of Kennewick at noon today at the Clover Island Inn in Kennewick.
-- Andy Perdue: 582-1405; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hip-hop concert to benefit Finley student
A hip-hop benefit concert for River View High School student Abi Hamlin, in remission from leukemia, will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 22 at Columbia High School in Burbank.
People must wear special T-shirts to enter the concert. The T-shirts, which say "Leukemia is wack/Help fight back for Abi Hamlin," are being sold at Columbia-Burbank home football games and at River View for $15. Concert proceeds will benefit the Hamlin family.
Doors open at 6 p.m. For more information or to order a T-shirt, contact Mike Stanton at 509-543-7006 or Jennifer Ward at River View.