Meet Elias Coulas
"Cancer survivorship has blessed me in many ways. I have the ability to enjoy the little things in life that many people take for granted."
I can still clearly picture my surroundings the day when I was diagnosed with leukemia. I remember the sharp pains of blood being drawn while I sat on my mother’s lap and the yellow, orange tint of the waiting room. At the time, I was unable to comprehend what cancer would mean for my life, but as I reflect on this first memory of being diagnosed with cancer and the ensuing journey towards survivorship, I realize how much of my journey has defined who I am today.
I have developed many important character traits early in my life due to my survivorship. The cranial radiation and chemotherapy that I received not only caused me to stop growing, but also caused considerable damage to areas of my brain that affect my learning. My neuropsychiatrist inspired me to work through the obstacles that the late effects of cancer treatment had presented me with. I achieved a level of discipline and determination from dealing with the late effects of cancer treatment that I may not have developed had I been a normal kid.
My journey to survivorship has also made my life more meaningful and this positive attitude has been inspiring to others, both in my family and my community. I learned very early in life to not “sweat the small stuff.” I have developed a sense of gratitude and appreciation for every moment of my life because I know that there are many kids who have not been as fortunate as I have been.
Being a cancer survivor means that I will always have a responsibility to the cancer community. I began volunteering at Akron Children’s Hospital the first summer that I was eligible when I turned 16. This was the hospital where I was diagnosed and treated. The first summer I played with kids on the oncology floor where I spent much of my childhood. I was told that it brought comfort and hope to parents when they found out that I had been in the same position as their children and to see me now as a teen survivor.
Being a survivor has also impacted my career goals. I am currently taking pre-pharmacy courses and working on my B.S. degree in chemistry at Miami University. I plan on either being a pharmacist at a children’s hospital or performing research in an attempt to find better cancer treatments. My dad passed away at the end of my freshman year of high school after a five-year battle with throat cancer. I think that it would be rewarding to help find cures and better treatments for other types of cancer.
Cancer survivorship has blessed me in many ways. I have the ability to enjoy the little things in life that many people take for granted. In a way, I am thankful for having experienced cancer and the late effects from my treatment because I have become tougher mentally and physically, and will continue to benefit from these experiences in years to come.