Cancer patient chooses to be happy
Devin Duncan didn't hesitate when she was invited to hit the runway Oct. 5 for the third annual Celebration of Champions luncheon and fashion show to benefit Texas Children's Cancer Center.
"I tend to get involved with any of the fundraisers I can help with, and a fashion show sounded like fun," the 17-year-old Langham Creek High School senior said.
Duncan, who is in the midst of her second battle with leukemia, makes it a priority to help the hospital that has cared for her on and off over the years.
As for fun, Duncan is a big fan. She has been determined to keep her perspective upbeat throughout her illness.
"I've always been a positive person," she said. "I heard one time no matter what you're going through, someone is going through something a little worse. You can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. I choose to be happy."
Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer, who has cared for Devin since early childhood, recommended her for the fashion show.
"She's a great representative of a child who's had a big battle," said Dreyer, medical director of the long-term survivor program at Texas Children's Cancer Center. "Even though it's scary to her, the fact is it's happening, it's reality. She's out there to battle and be cured.
"Devin is a wonderful, mature person who has a great future in front of her."
Devin was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 4.
"She started complaining that her waist hurt, like she was wearing a tight belt," said Devin's mother, Debbie Duncan.
Doctors initially thought she had appendicitis, and then colic, before blood work identified the real problem.
The leukemia had been causing her spleen to swell, creating the pain she was experiencing.
The preschooler underwent chemotherapy at Texas Children's Hospital.
"She tolerated it fairly well," said her father, Michael Duncan.
"To talk to her now, she doesn't remember much of it."
Devin went into remission and focused on school, friends and being a kid.
She frequently supported efforts to help other pediatric cancer patients, including Pennies for Patients drives at the elementary and high school levels to benefit the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Thirteen years after her first diagnosis, Devin started complaining of dizziness, fatigue and sharp pains in her side.
The last thing we thought it would be was cancer," Michael Duncan said.
But Texas Children's Hospital confirmed the leukemia was back.
"It's not a relapse; it's more like lightning striking twice," her father said.
Devin began a new round of chemotherapy Feb. 18, this time undergoing a much more aggressive treatment.
Tutors from Langham Creek have been bringing her lessons and homework, and earlier this fall she was named her school's 2010 homecoming queen.
Fellow members of the school drill team, the Bailadoras, have stood behind her with unwavering support.
"They love her, and she loves them," Debbie Duncan said. "They've been really incredible."
When Devin is well enough, she loves hanging out with friends in her Copperfield community and visiting the nearby Sonic.
When Devin completes her treatment, Michael Duncan said, she will be 19.
"Then she will have spent 24 percent of her life on chemo," he said.
"One of the things she says about Texas Children's is that they saved her life twice now. Everyone has done so much for her, she wants to give back."
Michael Duncan said he and the rest of Devin's family, including siblings, twins Matthew and Anthony, 24, and Allison, 25, are extremely proud of her.
"She's not in denial; she knows the risks. But what she can't do anything about, she chooses not to worry about."
The Oct. 5 luncheon and fashion show, held at the Hilton Americas Hotel, featured keynote speaker Rebecca Skloot, author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
The day's title, Celebration of Champions, refers to children who are survivors of pediatric cancer. The day was a tribute to them.
For more information about Texas Children's Cancer Center, visit www.txccc.org/.
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