Sara Knox is a survivor.
Two years ago, the 12-year-old École River Heights student was diagnosed with Burkett’s Lymphoma, a rare and aggressive cancer of the lymph nodes that affects children.
Last month marked Knox’s first year chemo-free. Though a cancer patient isn’t considered to be in remission until they’ve been treatment-free for five years, Knox and her family are celebrating the end of her battle with cancer.
Knox, born in Ethiopia, was adopted as a baby, and lives with her mom, dad and younger brother in River Heights.
She said being diagnosed with cancer was a shock, but as a young child she didn’t know what to think about it.
"It was a shock. The first three months of chemotherapy were the hardest… but all I could do was hope for the best" she said.
Knox refers to her cancer as a bully.
"Cancer is a bully that punches you, and you can get back up, and it can punch you again, and it did," Knox said.
Knox’s mom, Lila, said while she was afraid, she knew that if anyone was strong enough to beat cancer it would be Sara.
"Once we were given our odds, which were pretty good… we knew Sara would make it," Lila said.
Despite being certain that Sara would survive, Lila said the family was desperate for their lives to return to normal.
"Even when we were getting better, she’d all of a sudden not feel well, and she’d have a fever and go back to the hospital. You get tired of doing that," Lila said.
"The fear of the cancer wasn’t as bad as the intermittent disappointments."
Lila said for Sara, missing out on childhood staples like summer camp and her role in the Grade 5 play were the hardest.
"All of a sudden you’re not just sick and in pain, you’re missing out on things," Lila said.
Throughout her treatment, Sara relied on donated blood. She said she is extremely grateful knowing that others took the time to donate blood.
Sara is encouraging everyone to take the time to donate blood, and help others like her who are in need of blood.
"It’s important for me to tell my story so that people donate blood to other people (who need it)," Sara said.
Lila’s mom echoed Sara’s gratitude for the blood donors.
"Blood donors don’t know us at all, and every time they give blood it’s taking time out of their day and giving blood to (someone they don’t know). Everyone else who helped us was family and friends, and (the blood donors) were the strangers," Lila said.
Canadian Blood Services community development co-ordinator Patricia Bal said Sara’s story is great as it helps put a face to the need for blood.
"A lot of our donors donate on a regular basis but might not know (someone who needs it)," Bal said. "Sara is a great spokesperson, and hopefully she encourages people who might not have donated before to donate."
Bal said the need for blood in Manitoba is constant.
"The stat is that on average, every 60 seconds someone needs blood," she said.
People wishing to donate can call 1-888-2-DONATE, or go to blood.ca to make an appointment.