The 18-year-old from Leaf River, Ill., was attending community college with plans to transfer to a four-year college and become a teacher. But while working as a cashier at a Farm and Fleet store during the 2012 Christmas season, Elliott passed out. She also started feeling more and more tired, but blamed it on holiday stress and studying for finals.
A few days later, Elliott — who almost never stayed home ill — looked at her mother and said, “I don’t feel well enough to go to school.” After nearly fainting at an immediate care center, she was brought by ambulance to Swedish American Hospital in Rockford, Ill.
Hematologist/oncologist Harvey Einhorn, MD, gave her the news: “You have a type of leukemia, but you are going to get better.“ The diagnosis was acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a blood cancer that is highly curable in children and young adults. Elliott recalls the moment as “upsetting, but also encouraging, because I got reassurance right away.”
Einhorn referred her to the Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Oncology Program at University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital.