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Paige Armstrong Shares Her Bone Cancer Journey

By Paige Armstrong
 
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Bone cancer survivor Paige Armstrong describes the surgery and chemotherapy treatments she endured and shares how the Make-A-Wish Foundation granted a dream, launching her career as a Christian rock singer.

Todd Hartley:
I want to tell you about 19-year-old recording star Paige Armstrong who nine years ago she woke up to something completely unexpected. Paige had a nagging pain below her right knee, which she later found out was bone cancer. To share her story well I am joined right now by Paige Armstrong. Hi Paige!

Paige Armstrong:
Hi, how’s it going?

Todd Hartley:
Paige it’s doing well. We are excited to be able to talk with you and help create awareness for bone cancer. Take me back. When you were first diagnosed with bone cancer Paige what went through your mind? I mean you were only ten, but what went through your mind?

Paige Armstrong:
Well, honestly, I barely knew what cancer was. When I was first told that it could be cancer because I went through a bunch of different things, you know, my right leg was really hurting me and I got so many tests. The doctors said, “Oh well, it’s just growing pain; oh well, it’s a sprained ligament,” you know, anything but cancer.

Finally I got an MRI and that showed that there was a little spot that looked like a tumor and it wasn’t until I had a biopsy. So when it was, you know, it was Ewing’s sarcoma and I remember hearing words like surgeries and hospital, but cancer, I didn’t know what that was and so honestly it was just kind of like I remember saying, “Oh well, surgeries and hospital – that’s not good,” you know but I really had no idea what I was in for until I was in the midst of it and I think that, you know, if anything, that’s the one good thing about being young when I was diagnosed because I really didn’t know what I was in for until I was going through it.

Todd Hartley:
You had chemotherapy and surgeries. You basically lived in a hospital for a while. Talk to me about the experience of being a young girl and having to have a very grownup experience.

Paige Armstrong:
Well, I mean I was immediately thrown into chemotherapy, extensive surgeries, I mean and you’re right, the hospital totally became my home for about a year. I lost all of my hair, which was very, it’s hard as a girl, I mean it’s hard for anybody, you know, guy or girl no matter what age…

Todd Hartley:
Paige I am losing it right now and it’s hard for me.

Paige Armstrong:
I know what that’s like. I don’t know what to say. That’s funny! But that was just, that was kind of like the icing on the cake because I mean you go through so much with the chemotherapies, the surgery, you feel like you lose everything and so then for your hair to fall out on top of it, it’s just one more thing, you know?

And I got horribly sick from the chemotherapy. I had two different kinds of chemo that I was given. I would go in every two weeks, pretty much I would go and get chemo and then I would recover from the chemo, and as soon as I would recover I would have get chemo again. So it felt like I was just getting chemo just to recover and get more chemo and it was just really hard. Each of the chemotherapies that I got did different things. The one . . . that I got and that one gave me horrible acid reflex; I could barely eat anything I was so nauseous and each one kind of did their own things.

The other chemo I got had a whole mess of other effects and made my bone feel like they were shattering and that one was the worst by far. That chemo is called Vincristine and is almost just like blacked in my mind when I think about it because it was just so horrible.

But yeah, I had wonderful nurses though and doctors taking care of me. I was in the oncology unit and there was only a few rooms there because you have to be very isolated in order to not get sickness, you know, other types of sickness because your white count would go so slow. So it was quite an experience and I learned a whole bunch of new words and new things that I never imagined I would know or should know.

I also had a surgery to replace five inches of the bone in my leg where the chemo was and so I was pretty much in a wheelchair for about an entire year.

Todd Hartley:
Wow! That’s how long the recovery took? Does that leg feel somewhat normal now?

Paige Armstrong:
Well, I mean yes and no because I can walk, thank goodness, I am so happy, but I can’t run or jump and if I walk on it too much or I’m a little bit too strenuous on it then I have some issues because I have a scar on my leg that’s over a foot long. So it’s still very, you know, visually noticeable that something is different about it.

Todd Hartley:
But you are a rock star! It just makes you cooler.

Paige Armstrong:
Yeah man, I have got my scars. I’m hardcore.

Todd Hartley:
Get your street cred.

Paige Armstrong:
That’s awesome! I then I also got a knee replacement a few years later because my bone replacement wore out my knee so in 2006, when I was 16, I got a knee replacement and so I’m down like an 80-year-old leg over here. But I am very thankful that I have a leg and I can walk. So, you know, I have many limitations and it’s actually hurting me a little bit right now just because sometimes, I am on tour right now and sometimes it can be a little bit strenuous, but I keep trying. I give rest to it a little bit and then usually it can be okay.

Todd Hartley:
During your illness you were invited to submit a request to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and you asked to record an album in Nashville. Tell me about that.

Paige Armstrong:
Yeah, the Make-A-Wish Foundation, oh they’re amazing! They grant wishes to kids that have life-threatening illnesses and so they stepped in and said, “Hey Paige, you know, Make-A-Wish and if there’s anything in the world that you like to do what would it be?” And, I mean, that questioning kind of overwhelms you.

Todd Hartley:
Right.

Paige Armstrong:
Because one, you never dreamed of being asked that but, I thought about so many different possibilities and eventually landed on the idea of going to Nashville from my home in Pennsylvania and recording a professional CD. It took a while for them to put it all together because it was not a normal wish, like a normal wish would be like, “Hey, I want to go to Disneyland.”

Todd Hartley:
Right, right.

Paige Armstrong:
And I am like, “I’d like to make a professional CD,” and so it took about a year for them to put together but they did and then in 2003, I was on my way to Nashville, had my own producer, musicians and junior backup singers, the whole works. It was amazing.

And they took parents and I out there and I just had the chance to record this two-song CD and it was the most amazing experience ever and really, that wish CD created a domino effect of opportunities for them to see me speak all over the country. So in some ways it feels like the wish that never stopped because it really hasn’t. It’s only grown from there, which has been so amazing. Make-A-Wish really, I always dreamed that I had walked away from cancer and I can never thank them enough for that.

Todd Hartley:
If you were sitting with a person who just was about to start chemo for bone cancer what kind of advice, from one patient to another, would you give them?

Paige Armstrong:
Oh goodness, well, one I would say, get some good bandanas because yeah, they are even better than wigs and everything; bandanas, get some sweet colored bandanas.

Two, let’s see, there’s so many different things. I would probably just talk to them about some of the things like what the chemo might do and what not, but honestly, I would say last, find things that are funny, you know, that was such an important part of my journey was laughing about certain things and even being bald I had these few wisps of hair left and so I would like comb it over to one side at one point and do like an old man impersonation or like, even like kind of twist some in the front . . .

Todd Hartley:
See, you made light of it at least.

Paige Armstrong:
Yeah, totally because I mean it’s much better that way and laughing, it’s healing to you, it’s healing to your family and your friends.

Todd Hartley:
I wore my killer, sweet bandana the other day when the office went to a baseball game and everybody kept talking to me like I was a pirate. It just didn’t work for me.

Her name is Paige Armstrong. She is 19-years-old. She is a recording star. Her album is “Wake Up” and you can find it on iTunes. Her website PaigeHasAStory.com, and she also has a blog – PaigeHasAStory.WordPress.com.

Paige, what can people find on your blog?

Paige Armstrong:
Well, I write about all kinds of different things. Right now I’m on the road and so I get to share about some things that happen on the road and usually I just write about kind of whatever I am learning at the time. I am constantly learning new things and new experiences in my life and stuff that God’s teaching me and so I write about all of that and recently I mixed really for songs for Haiti just to benefit what’s going on over there and so I kind of, you know, wrote about that a little bit. So it’s kind of a bit of everything. You never know what you’re going to get.

Todd Hartley:
Yeah, my brother and sister were adopted from Haiti two years ago. They are much younger than I am, but we ran in a race for Haiti last week and my little brother who is 11, came in first, which I thought was really…

Paige Armstrong:
Oh my gosh!

Todd Hartley:
I mean I was really nice that somebody from Haiti won the race for Haiti, but I found it very irritating because I came in second, right?

Paige Armstrong:
Ha, that is so funny but hey, second is so great.

Todd Hartley:
Second is still . . . not so much Paige. She is Paige Armstrong. She is recording star. Her album “Wake Up”, you can find it on iTunes and her website PaigeHasAStory.com. Paige, thank you so much for sharing your bone cancer story with us.

Paige Armstrong:
Thank you so much. It’s been wonderful to talk to you.

Visit Paige at her website

Go To Make-A-Wish Foundation

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