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Brooke Bott: Keeping Her Joy as She Battled Leukemia

Brooke Bott

“Even though I was going through something really difficult, I still smiled my way through it.”

Brooke Bott
Childhood Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (Child ALL)

Brooke Bott was enjoying her cousin’s birthday party when her childhood changed completely.

“They said I needed to go to the hospital immediately,” Brooke said of the phone call her parents received from her pediatrician. Brooke’s mother had taken her to the pediatrician because Brooke, then 5 years old, had unexplained bruises all over her body.

Brooke remembers leaving that birthday party in January 2009, packing a few things at home in Colleyville, and then heading to Texas Oncology–Medical City Dallas Pediatric Hematology–Oncology. Brooke needed immediate treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia, “ALL,” a type of blood cancer that originates in the bone marrow.

For two weeks, Brooke stayed in the hospital to receive treatment. Her cancer was declared in remission 19 days later, and she began two and a half years of chemotherapy treatment.

While those years in treatment still feel like a blur to Brooke, now 18, she recalls moments with physicians as times when she could just feel like a kid.

“Even though I was going through something really difficult, I still smiled my way through it,” she said. “Even though I was sick, I was always trying to be happy and bubbly -- that’s just kind of who I am.”

One day, while listening to Miley Cyrus on her mom’s iPod in an isolation room, Stanton Goldman, M.D., pediatric oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology–Medical City Dallas Pediatric Hematology–Oncology, Texas Oncology– Mount Pleasant Pediatric Clinic, and Texas Oncology–Plano Pediatric Hematology–Oncology, came in to check on Brooke. “He got up and danced with me in my room!” she said. “I was just listening to my music and trying to stay positive and have some fun, and he danced with me. I loved my doctors!”

“I deny dancing to Miley Cyrus but do recall that Brooke was (and is) a joyful young woman who did not let leukemia or side effects of therapy stop her from being a ‘normal’ child,” Dr. Goldman said. “She was brave and inspirational in her actions and attitude.”

Maurizio Ghisoli, M.D., pediatric oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology–Medical City Dallas Pediatric Hematology– Oncology, Texas Oncology–Midland Allison Cancer Center, and Texas Oncology–Plano Pediatric Hematology–Oncology, Brooke remembered, had a way to always make her laugh. “He was really great,” she said, “When I would come in for my check-ups, he would literally just point his finger at me and I would laugh like he was tickling me. I would just burst into laughter!”

“I will never forget Brooke’s explosive laugh, no matter how difficult the day was,” Dr. Ghisoli remembered. “I remember pretend playing that I had ‘magic fingers’ and I would make her giggle from tickles even without touching her.”

To help protect Brooke while she underwent chemotherapy treatment, Brooke was home-schooled for the remainder of her kindergarten year. Brooke returned to her kindergarten class at the end of the year to give a presentation about the treatment she was receiving. She shared with her classmates about what her life was like and how she was keeping a positive attitude, accompanied by a child life specialist and with permission from her care team.

Ten years after finishing chemotherapy treatment, Brooke stays in remission and appreciates the unique perspective that fighting cancer at such a young age provided her.

“As I was growing up, I always felt that I didn’t think the same way a lot of other people did. For me, I feel like there are some things that people worry a lot about that I don’t worry about at all. [Fighting cancer] is a big part of who I am, even though I don’t have cancer anymore. But it’s something that will stick with me for the rest of my life,” she said.

Grateful for the care she received, Brooke has moved into a new chapter in her life, one that finds her chasing her dreams by studying theater at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.

“I’m really enjoying it – I’m in a bachelor of arts in theater with a concentration in acting and directing, leaning toward musical theater,” Brooke said. “I want to be in Broadway productions and in touring productions. I want to make theater a career. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever chosen for myself – but being a theater major is so rewarding and it’s what I love.”

Before she begins touring the country in theater productions, Brooke has an important date to make back at home in DFW: a wedding in May of 2022, where she will play the role of a bridesmaid, supporting the fiancé of her cousin, Josh. It was at Josh’s birthday party all those years ago where Brooke found out she had to go immediately to the hospital for cancer treatment.

Brooke stays close with her family. “My cousins and my grandparents, and parents, we all live in DFW,” she said. “It’s very nice being very close to my family. I spend a lot of time with my grandparents, aunts and uncles and I’m very excited that my cousin is getting married!”

While Brooke focuses on her theater studies and enjoys staying close with those she holds dear, she also keeps a close watch on her wellbeing, working with her physicians to help her stay on top of her health.

For those just beginning the journey with cancer, this 18- year-old has sage advice: “It’s hard and it won’t be easy, but when you get to the end, you look back and see everything that you have accomplished and you’ll be amazed at how strong you are. It will change you and you will be a much better person because of it, even though it was not something you were planning on or expecting. You will come out stronger in the end.”

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.