University of La Verne senior Adrian Pearson has experienced chronic health problems that most young adults never go through. She has been undergoing treatment for lymphoma throughout her undergraduate career. Pearson was part of the 2001 ULV volleyball squad that captured the national championship in Whitewater, Wisc. Pearson will graduate this January.
When a person hears these words, they can accept them as a death sentence or take the news as a chance to live their life.
Adrian Pearson chose to live after she was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in Sept. 2003.
“My philosophy is that it’s your attitude that will make you or break you,” Pearson said. “I could have sat in my bed for six months feeling sorry for myself and I probably would not have made it through it.”
Pearson, 24, is a University of La Verne senior majoring in movement and sports science.
She was a member of the University of La Verne volleyball team for three years and was a part of the 2001 squad, which defeated Wisconsin-Whitewater for the national championship.
Pearson also continues to coach basketball and volleyball at Wilson High School in Hacienda Heights.
“She’s my hero,” said Sue Pearson, Adrian’s mother. “I wanted everything around her to be clean and for her to wear the mask and everything like that but she said, ‘No, I’m going to school.’ She just has an incredible determination and positive attitude that got her through.”
There are about 45,000 new Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cases diagnosed annually in the United States. This is cancer of the lymph nodes and is located throughout the body.
In 2003, Adrian Pearson felt an unusual and painful ache in her chest when she would run. A body scan showed a 19-centimeter mass of cells wedged between her heart and one of her lungs.
In only three months, the large mass had developed rapidly and collapsed her lung. The cancer was diagnosed at stage three and Pearson was given a 55 percent chance of survival.
“When the doctors diagnosed me, everyone around me cried,” Pearson said. “But I didn’t, because there was nothing I could do to change it. So I asked the doctors, ‘What’s next?’”
The support of her family and boyfriend, the power of laughter and a will to live are the things Adrian Pearson credits for her survival.
While she received her eight chemotherapy treatments at UCLA Medical Center, Pearson and her father would laugh and enjoy their time together instead of being overcome by their depressing circumstance.
Her father retired to become her caregiver and to help her get to her doctor appointments, classes and other activities.
“She’s very strong and she gives me strength,” said Scott Lindeen, Pearson’s boyfriend.
“Not too many people get an opportunity like she has had and she’s really lucky to have survived. So from her I have learned to live life to the fullest,” he added.
Pearson had long blonde hair before the chemotherapy caused it to fall out. She wore a brunette wig to cover her bald head as she continued to go to class and coach her high school teams.
“I think the hardest part was with my peers at La Verne,” Pearson said. “I would walk by my friends, some I had known for two or three years, and they wouldn’t even recognize me. That is what hurt the most.”
Her love for the game of volleyball kept her goals in focus even as her future was unsure. ?Even after cancer, Pearson made the ULV team again but had to leave for her physical well-being.
“My whole goal was to beat this so I could play,” she said. “But it was only four or five months after my last chemo treatment so I just decided that it would be best for me not to continue.”
Pearson has been in remission for more than a year and a half.
She still has to have a body scan every three months and then wait one week for the results.
She still worries that her cancer will come back.
Pearson plans to graduate in January and continue at ULV to pursue her master’s degree so she can one day coach college athletics.
She has learned many lessons from her struggles with cancer and she shares her story in the hope of helping others who may be touched my cancer sometime in their lives.
“Now I don’t complain about the little things. There are bigger things,” Pearson said.
“There are people out there who have it worse than me, so I don’t have any room to complain.”
Angie Gangi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.