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WVU pharmacy student finds her passion through chemotherapy treatment

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Just six days after Autumn Smith turned 15 years old, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, which is a type of cancer of the blood and bone marrow that affects white blood cells.

Autumn was considered a high-risk patient, so for two and a half years, she went through chemotherapy treatment.

She said she remembers the exact day she found out that she had cancer.

“I can remember exactly down to the room I was in, and I was diagnosed on the children’s floor and they came in and took my parents to tell them something, and I’m 15 so I know that something is not good,” said Autumn.

She said that it was an emotional moment and it feels like your life changes in a split second. “There’s no other way to describe it. You don’t know how much longer you have necessarily until you hear all the facts and you don’t know what it means.”

Despite the fact that Autumn was in and out of the hospital for two years, that didn’t turn her away from pursuing a career in Pharmacy.

She said that the nurse who gave her first chemotherapy treatment also had ALL, and to see her get through it was an eye-opener for Autumn.

“It made me feel like, ‘okay I can do this,’ like you’re scared and you feel like it’s never going to end and then you’re seeing someone who went through exactly what you did, and they seem like they’re normal and living their life now.”

Autumn Smith

Her doctor was also a big influence in her life, because he would tell her exactly what kind of medicine she was getting and what it did specifically, which sparked her interest in Pharmacy.

She said, “I always knew deep down that I didn’t want to just be a retail pharmacist, and that I wanted to work with doctors to help determine the best treatment regimens for patients fighting cancer.”

Autumn is now in her third year of pharmacy school at West Virginia University. She also reached her five-year out of treatment remission mark in May 2019.

She said that most patients that have cancer really strive for that five-year remission mark to be considered “cancer-free,” which she was very happy to finally reach her mark.

“It’s like a weight comes off your shoulders for sure. You can kind of breathe again, and to know that you’re cured is an amazing feeling. It was just a good day. Nothing could’ve brought me down that day.”

Autumn Smith

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