“Your daughter has Leukemia.”
Loan Lam’s parents were stunned. It was July 1999 and Loan was a few days away from celebrating her 9th birthday. The formal diagnosis: childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common type of cancer in children. With ALL, the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).
Advancements in modern medicine saved her life. According to the National Cancer Institute, from 2005-2011, the five-year relative survival rates for ALL: 91.2 percent for children and adolescents younger than 15 years, and 92.9 percent for children younger than 5 years.
However, beating ALL requires rigorous treatments. “Pediatric Leukemia is a daunting foe,” Loan says.
Loan suffered a relapse at age 16. Dealing with side effects of chemotherapy and the daily regimen of prescription medications were tough battles. “Spending several hours a week in and out of the hospital for various treatments and procedures often made me tired and weak. There were times I began to lose hope due to the huge toll it took on my body,” she says.
Now 26 years old, Loan attributes her survival to the support she received from family members, the efforts of her patient care team, and continuous advancements in the treatment of ALL.
“My experience with cancer has shaped the person I have become and directs me where I want to go with my future,” Loan says.
Loan grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology from the University of Nevada, Reno, and today is well on her way toward achieving her goal to become a pharmacist.
Her pediatric oncologist advised Loan to consider a career in pharmacy because it is a rewarding profession, with many opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. Her experiences as a cancer patient cemented her decision. “It provided me insight on how medication therapy can drastically change your life and give opportunities where once stood misfortune,” she says.
Loan also sees pharmacy as a way to give back to the community. “I have been volunteering for various community services since I was 17 years old,” she said, noting that she volunteered as a camp counselor at Southern Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation’s “Camp Cartwheel” for four years, tutored K-8th graders in math and science through the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, and volunteered at Sunrise Children’s Hospital every year during holidays and bone marrow/blood drives.
At WSU, Loan is president of the WSU Professional Pharmacy Student Organization (PPSO) for the 2017-18 academic year. She was a student pharmacist volunteer for Operation Immunization, a series of emergency immunization clinics organized by the Spokane Regional Health District, Walgreens, and the College of Pharmacy in response to a recent outbreak of mumps in the Spokane area. She also volunteered at various community outreach events in Spokane, such as health fairs on campus and at the East Central Community Center, and she participated in the American Heart Association Heart Walk and the American Cancer Society Relay for Life.
She chose WSU for pharmacy studies based on word-of-mouth recommendations. ”Immediately after my interview, I knew this was the right school for me,” Loan says. “WSU’s College of Pharmacy has created the true ‘pharmily’ atmosphere. Dean Gary Pollack, Dr. Jennifer Robinson, and the student ambassadors I met opened my eyes to this unique community of faculty, staff, and upperclassmen who are always willing to lend a helping hand.”
She appreciates the constant reminders from faculty and fellow students wanting to help her succeed, Loan says, adding that scholarship support, including the Dr. Edward R. Meyer Endowed Scholarship in Pharmacy she received this past academic year, has helped her get to where she is today.
“I want to thank all donors for supporting WSU students through scholarships and many other ways toward fulfilling our dreams of becoming the next generation of pharmacists, doctors, engineers, lawyers, or educators,” Loan says, adding, “I will continue to work hard toward my future endeavors and I believe I will be able to succeed with your help and support.”