Husky in the Spotlight: Lindsey Barrows - Cancer Survivor

Cancer affects the lives of millions of people around the world, leaving families dreaming of the day they hear that their loved one has been cured. For Lindsey Barrows’s family, this dream has been a reality for 14 years and she has made giving back to the community that supported her family a big part of her life. “My name is Lindsey and I am a cancer survivor,” she proudly said during her survival speech at Northeastern’s Relay for Life fundraiser on March 24, 2017 at Matthews Arena. Relay for Life is a fundraiser held by the American Cancer Association with the goal of raising money to combat cancer. Northeastern collaborated with the American Cancer Association and held a Relay for Life fundraiser.

19-year-old Northeastern University freshman Lindsey Barrows was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at the age of 3 and finished her treatment by age 5. This particular type of blood cancer is “characterized by an excess of immature white blood cells in your bone marrow,” she said and it is most common in “children ages 2 to 5 and then it peaks again in old age.” Barrows went on to say that “it is the most common type of child cancer and over the past decade it has become the most curable…98% of children go into remission with treatment.” Remission is the disappearance of signs of cancer, whether it be permanent or temporary.

An important fact that isolates blood cancer from other types of cancer is that it doesn’t develop in stages; the entire body is quickly affected after cancerous cells begin to form. In her speech, Barrows proudly announced that she has been “cancer free for 14 years and only [sees her] oncologist every other year.” According to Barrows, a large part of who she is today is because of what she went through. “I was so young when I underwent treatment that I don’t remember a lot of it,…[yet] it has had a great impact on who I am today…I like to think of myself as being a compassionate, strong, empathetic, and optimistic person. I don’t think these traits could be as prominent or maybe even developed if it weren’t for the experience I went through as a child.”

She even went on to say that in addition to developing these values, she learned how important it is to give back and has made sure to make it a large part of her life. At a young age, Barrows joined her family in their research and fundraising efforts. Barrow’s mother works one-on-one with a special needs child in a special ed classroom, while her father is a courier for FedEx. Her parents worked with the Jimmy Fund Walk, Relay for Life, and Angels Hope to raise money to combat cancer.

Barrows spoke highly of a local organization called Angels Hope and the support the organization gave her family during her treatment. Angels Hope is an organization run by Martha Knapp who lost her son to cancer. Knapp works with volunteers to provide families on Cape Cod with home cooked meals, gift cards for gas, meals, home supplies, and is a support network for families of children with cancer. Barrows also mentioned that they took kids with cancer and their families to stay at an all-expenses paid, weekend-long vacation at a hotel on Cape Cod saying, “the Angels Hope weekend was something so fun and I looked forward to going. It was always around Christmas time, so Santa would come and give every kid and their siblings presents.” “What I remember the most [about this stage in my life] is the fun stuff I got to do, like trick or treat at the hospital, playing in the playroom, and doing arts and crafts. I loved hanging out with the volunteers and Lisa, an employee in the playroom,” Barrows said as she described her experience.

Despite battling illness at such a young age, Barrows said she doesn’t feel like she missed out on a lot of opportunities. “I still got to play with other kids who were sick like me [and] I still was able to go to preschool and kindergarten,” she said and went on to explain, “I feel like the main difference was that I had no hair and had to take a lot of medicine and go to a lot of doctor’s appointments.” At such a young age, Barrows says it was hard for her to put together that she was going through things other kids didn’t. She also describes the experience as her “having to get a lot of ‘pokes’ like shots and blood draws.”

An important part of Barrows giving back to her community was her high school senior project. She organized a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund Clinics Activity Center, which is where children awaiting treatment or checkup can “make crafts, play games, read books, use computers and gaming consoles.” Barrows held a paint night as her main fundraiser, set up a webpage for additional donations, created a newsletter to spread awareness about pediatric cancer, and scheduled a tour of the facilities for her school’s Health Occupations Students of America group. Barrows was able to raise and donate $3,000 to the Jimmy Fund Clinics Activity Center. She said she chose this particular place because it was her favorite place to play when she was a patient and felt that she wanted to give back to it.

Barrows is now studying to obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Human Services from Northeastern University and believes that her experience with cancer “definitely influenced [her] choice to be in human services.” She went on to say, “I greatly benefited by services provided by those in the human services professions. I feel that helping others who are in positions like I was in would be rewarding and the best way to give back.”