2014 – Erica’s Story

Erica Kelly

  • The Ohio State University – Class of 2014
  • President of the OSU Running Club – 2013-2014
  • Diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in March 2014
  • Treatments at The James Cancer Hospital


senior pic 2

In November 2013, I started finding sensitive spots on my body. During finals week in the beginning of December, I went to the doctor because I had jaw pain and multiple sensitive spots on my chest and head. I went to see my family doctor in Columbus and he put me on steroids for a few weeks which helped with almost all of the pain. The pain stayed away a whole month until New Years Eve when I woke up with strange, pulsating pain all the way around my waist and on my head. I ended up going back on prednisone and every time the dose would taper down, the pain would come back. I started seeing a rheumatologist in January. I got CT scans and MRIs of my head and neck, but they weren’t showing anything. In March, the pain started to get severe. I ended up going to the ER multiple times because my hips and chest hurt so badly, but they were never able to relieve my pain. My mom got involved and set me up with a rheumatologist from OSU. The doctor had me get a lot of blood work in one week and found that I had very high LDH levels which indicates cell death. One day, after more blood work, she called and told me that she was worried that I had lymphoma and that she had made me an appointment at the OSU James Cancer Center. I ended up in severe pain Wednesday night and was still in pain for my appointment the next morning. They put me on IV pain medication as soon as I got there and it was the first time that I’d had relief. No medication the ER gave me had ever helped; only the steroids could keep it away, and I’d always have to wait the pain out otherwise. At my appointment, they told me they’d found some malignant cells in my blood. I had a CT scan which didn’t show any swollen lymph nodes, so lymphoma started being ruled out. They did a bone marrow biopsy next. They then admitted me to the hospital that day for the pain. The next day, they got the results of my bone marrow biopsy. My doctor came into my room and told my mother and me that my biopsy showed almost 100% cancer cells. I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) on March 21, 2014.

OSU Graduation


I started chemotherapy the next day, and a little over a month later, I was in first remission and at home. Despite some complications with the chemotherapy that led to sinus thrombosis (blood clots in the brain), seizures, and a mini stroke, I was confident then that I was going to make it. This spring, I had to miss my last month of college and cancel 3 medical school interviews, but I was still able to graduate Magna Cum Laude from Ohio State with a B.S. in Biology thanks to my thoughtful advisor and professors. I’ll never be able to get back my senior track season with the Running Club at Ohio State, but I know I’ll compete again some day. During May and June, I traveled to Columbus once a week for chemotherapy. On July 8th, I was readmitted for my bone marrow transplant which took place on July 16th. I’m currently recovering well and reapplying to medical school. I know that life is going to go on.

Erica's Army at Relay

I have been the President of the Running Club at OSU for the past two years, and I was diagnosed just in time for my team to put together an amazing Relay for Life team for me at OSU this April, and the pictures from the event kept me going during my first hospital stay. My friends from home put together a team for the Relay for Life in Vermilion, OH, which I was able to attend this May. My old high school teammates and coach put on a 5k for me in my hometown of Amherst, OH, this July 31st. Having so much support from my family, friends, and my teammates both at home and at Ohio State has made this an incredible journey so far.


-Erica Kelly