Found to have Burkitt’s lymphoma at 8 years old, Brian shares his 14-year story

A Survivor’s Story: Brian Appel

Imagine being 8 years old and being told you have cancer. Now imagine being told that the cancer you have is so dangerous that you have a very poor chance of surviving and, if you do live, you will probably be a paraplegic.

I was diagnosed with stage IV Burkitt’s lymphoma and had to stare cancer in the face. Tumors eroded the bones in my sinus cavity, penetrated my skull, covered my spine and compressed my spinal column while my bone marrow was full of cancer cells. In an instant, my life changed forever.

Cohen Children’s Medical Center became my new home. I endured countless procedures –CT scans, MRIs, transfusions, radiation and high dosages of chemotherapy – all in an attempt to keep me alive. The nurses became my extended family and I learned to live and make friends on the pediatric oncology unit. It was the rollercoaster ride of a lifetime, but with the support from my family and friends, time passed. Slowly my prognosis changed from “guarded” and “poor” to cautiously optimistic. I left the hospital five months later, still a silly kid, but much older and wiser inside.

Today I am a 22-year-old and proud to say that I not only graduated with honors from Farmingdale State College with an Associate in Arts degree, but I also graduated as valedictorian from the Robert J. Hochsteim School of Radiography. I am currently working at a local community hospital and love to spend my free time working out in the gym.

The Survivors Facing Forward program gives me the confidence that someone is still watching over my health and my future. Surviving cancer doesn’t just end with your last dose of chemo. I know that no matter what comes my way, there is someone to go to who will take an interest in me and make sure the right health decisions are made. There is more to living that just surviving. Let’s face it… surviving means I get to celebrate two birthdays!

Survivors Facing Forward Program

As childhood survivors of cancer have grown into adults, it has become clear that cure is not the end of their journey. For many of these patients, the cure has been achieved at a significant price, including medical, psychological and social complications related to their treatment. Early identification and management of these late effects of therapy requires risk-focused care and surveillance throughout life.

To insure that Brian stays healthy 20, 30 and 40 or more years after treatment, it is extremely important for him to have a personalized, risk-based health maintenance plan that includes appropriate screening. Often, these plans can only be obtained from a survivorship program such as Survivors Facing Forward. Through the program, survivors like Brian can feel confident that their current and future health is being looked after, including any possible late effects from treatment.

For more information on the Survivors Facing Forward program or to schedule an appointment, please contact the program’s clinical coordinator, Theresa Mayr, RN, CPON, at (718) 470-3151 or

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