EDMOND, Okla. - Freshman year on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond is not exactly as 19-year old Zoe Jones expected. She is thrilled to be here, but spends hours off campus, getting life-saving treatment for cancer.
"I just broke down and said, 'There's no way God would decide to give me cancer, there's no way that's supposed to happen," she said.
Before the diagnosis last summer, she remembers the exhaustion she felt volunteering at a day camp for inner city kids.
"I would go to work and try to be upbeat but I was so tired," she recalls. She'd go home and immediately fall asleep. She also says she couldn't explain the dark, raised bruises she started finding on her legs.
Zoe's mom, Jill, says she thought her daughter had mononucleosis at first. Finally, she asked a friend who is a doctor to help them try and figure out what was going wrong.
"She has no platelets, she's anemic. I'm getting a referral from a hematologist," Jill, Zoe's mom, remembers him saying after getting her blood tests back.
Jill Jones tried to help her daughter absorb the news that she had APML leukemia. This type of blood cancer has a genetic mutation and it's usually seen in adult patients, not pediatric cases.
Pediatric oncologist Dr. Anand Srinivasan says medical science has, fortunately, caught up with this deadly cancer.
"Ten years ago, you would have died from bleeding complications with APML Leukemia. I think this speaks to how far we have come in our field so now we're almost able to cure it," Dr. Srinivasan said.
Ironically, the cure turns out to be a key ingredient in rat poison: arsenic. That ingredient, plus a form of Vitamin A has proven to be a potent one-two punch that can cure this type of cancer.
Zoe's routine now is to go for two and a half hour treatments, 5 days a week for a month at a time. She is off treatment every other month.
" I think she's a sweet girl and most importantly, I think she's very strong," Dr. Srinivasan says.
Zoe says it's much easier to feel good about her long hours in the clinic since she transferred from an adult cancer clinic to Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer.
She loves the bright atmosphere, warm staff, and the opportunity to take part in activities that younger teens and children enjoy, such as art therapy. In fact, she now hopes to become an art therapist herself.
Jill Jones' eyes well with tears when she considers what her daughter has been through, and how well she has handled it.
"I totally admire her bravery and strength. I don't know if I'd want to go meet new people and go to classes when you feel crummy and you've lost your hair, but she does. I just totally admire her bravery and strength," she said.
Like the butterfly Zoe is painting while she waits in the clinic, Zoe will soon take flight. Spring break is around the corner, and so is the end of her treatment.
If you'd like to help kids like Zoe fight cancer, consider donating to JECFriends.org.
Kids with Courage is sponsored by the Jimmy Everest Center.