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Kids with cancer: Part V: Survivors continue to deal with side effects from treatment

— As it turned out, Erin Hannagan was one of the lucky ones.

Hannagan was 16 when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease May 25, 1993. But she would beat the disease.

“I had been coughing for quite some time and had been diagnosed with multiple ‘colds,’” Hannagan recalled. “It finally got so bad that my mom took me to an urgent care center where a chest X-ray was done that revealed a large mediastinal [cavity containing the heart, esophagus, trachea, thymus and aorta] mass.”

Hannagan was home from school the next day when the physician’s assistant called and asked to speak to her mother.  

“When he asked for her work number I remember being worried,” she said. “When my mom arrived home shortly afterward I knew something was up.”

Hannagan and her mother went to Upstate Medical University to the Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders.  

“I still remember crying when Dr. Dubowy and Dr. Kennedy knew my name before we told them,” she said.

Dr. Gloria Kennedy, then a fellow at Upstate, became Hannagan’s primary physician. She got Hannagan enrolled in a clinical trial, where she was treated with chemotherapy and radiation over the next year.

‘Treatment was okay, [but] it was chemo after all,” Hannagan said. “I had three inpatient courses and I was sick then.  But my friends and family always came to the hospital to keep me company.”

Hannagan said she tried to stay as “normal” as possible, managing to remain involved in her extracurricular activities like cheerleading.  

“I think that you kind of get used to feeling a little bit sick a lot,” she said. “The hardest part about treatment was definitely when my hair fell out. It seemed very real after that happened. I think I dealt with it pretty well emotionally.  It was hard on my family and my sisters, though, I think. But our family is closer as a result.”

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