Ciara Cliff

Ciara Cliff

Saskatoon SK

My cancer journey is not just about me and what I went through. It is also about the people who prayed encouraged and fought for me through thick and thin.

Hello, my name is Ciara Cliff and I am a childhood cancer survivor. My journey started in 2007 at the age of six months old.

As a small infant, I was crying a lot more than a regular baby should. Anytime that I sat up, I would cry out in pain. Instantly, my parents knew that something was not right and took me to a doctor. In just a short amount of time, I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a type of blood cancer. This type of Leukemia is rare amongst young children, especially infants. This left my prognosis to between 25-35% chance of survival. However, this did not allow my family to give up hope for survival. Because I was diagnosed with cancer at such a young age, I have never really known what it’s like to not have cancer attached to my life story. This led to me feeling as if I was not as normal as my friends. 

For many years, I’ve struggled with the idea that I actually battled cancer. Other than my physical scars, the follow-up doctor’s appointments, and the invisible psychological traumas I have experienced, it felt as if I was never really sick. However, through the stories and my family’s recollections of my battle, it became very clear that my experience with cancer affected many around me.

Growing up, I enjoyed many different hobbies including: crafts, creating small businesses, dance, playing with my siblings, music and anything to do with princesses. In all of my ambitious ideas, my parents supported me. They have always encouraged me to be everything that God created me to be. I have always loved to help people in any way that I can. I think, for me, that’s something that comes natural because of what I went through. Something that has always given my family and I joy is our belief in Jesus Christ. My family and I believe that it was because of Him and His hand on my doctors that I am alive today.

Shortly after I was diagnosed, I started chemotherapy at the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon. After a few rounds, the treatment was not working as well as they had hoped and the doctors told my parents that my only chance of survival was a bone marrow transplant. I went through a few more rounds of chemotherapy to achieve remission. In the hopes of defeating cancer for good, my parents and I went to Winnipeg to receive my transplant. The transplant has about a 50 percent chance of working and fortunately for me, it was a success. It was in August of 2008, I entered remission. In total, I completed six rounds of chemotherapy before I was cured from AML Leukemia.

Throughout the years of coping and healing from the trauma of cancer, I definitely had my ups and downs. Annually, I had to go to the Saskatoon Cancer Clinic for check-ups and bloodwork. Everytime I had to go, I felt very fearful of the doctors and hospital environment. I never fully understood why I became so afraid of the hospital until I became older. I now know that even though I was an infant when I battled cancer, I still got trauma from my experience. Fortunately for me, I was discharged from the Cancer Clinic when I was ten years cancer-free. That day, I felt as if a big weight of my shoulders was released. It was at this time that I began to feel embarrassed about my journey and did not want to talk about it anymore. I wanted to forget that I am a cancer survivor.

After being quiet about my survival story for years, I learned so many things. Firstly, I learned that my cancer journey is not just about me and what I went through. It is also about the people who prayed, encouraged and fought for me through thick and thin. I realized how many sacrifices my family made during the time when I was sick. Because my prognosis was about between 25-35% of survival, my parents had to lean on their faith in God for comfort. I know that it is a complete miracle that I am here today. Now, it’s almost been 17 years since, and I am so grateful for each year that has passed by.

Despite the obstacles I faced at such a young age, I have achieved many accomplishments. I have completed all of my elementary school education and am about to graduate high school with academic honors. I’ve grown to be a strong, independent, and resilient young woman who is excited for the opportunities in the future. However, I would not be the person I am today without my parents’ dedication to encouraging, loving and supporting me through my healing journey. They stuck beside me through the
hard times and continue to celebrate my achievements. I cannot thank them enough for their love and support in my life.

I am extremely honored to represent Light the Night Saskatoon this year. I believe that sharing our cancer journeys brings healing and a sense of belonging to everyone in the blood cancer community. I look forward to bringing people together to support each other throughout our healing. As we raise awareness for blood cancers, we can fight and win the battle for future generations!