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Blogging Her Battle: Student Serena Bonneville Journals Through Chemotherapy, Cancer, and Support

Grade 12 student Serena Bonneville shaves two of her classmate
Grade 12 student Serena Bonneville shaves two of her classmate's heads at Southridge School.
— image credit: Serena Bonneville on Instagram

Serena Bonneville is a high school senior – 16 years old, living in South Surrey. She should be worried about graduating. Soccer. Enjoying herself before the always-dreaded real world sets in – university, college, work n' stuff. Growing up.

But the real world has already set in, and then some.

"Today I went in for my third round of chemotherapy treatment at Children's Hospital," she wrote on Monday, on her blog Change of Perspective, in a post titled 'Waiting'. "They injected me with some cancer-killers, took out some blood and then sent me home without any pricks or scars; all thanks to my wonderful, 'bionic-woman-like' VAD.

"It's all quite exciting!!!"

Charming passages like that shouldn't be surprising, I suppose, when the URL for her online journal is BreedingOptimism.blogpost.ca. According to her blog, Bonneville was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

Bonneville, who has expressed an interest in journalism and writing, has racked up over 26,000 page views in nine posts, starting with Day 1 of her chemo on Monday, Oct. 14, 2013.

(She also writes another blog at SBonnevi.wordpress.com, which shows off her cinephile side.)

"Well I leave my fate in the hands of international organs and tenacious blood cells," her first entry begins.

"Getting told by a doctor that you've caught a common cold, typically plants a feeling of suitable normality: 'Well I didn't wear a jacket last night, so go figure.'

"Getting told my an oncologist that Leukemia cells had invaded my bone marrow; this one left me seared."

That post, by Bonneville's own admission, was a little bleak.

"That first post seemed too depressing for my liking," she wrote in her second post, only 40 minutes after the one above.

"It's hard to grasp an awareness of the love and care that constantly surrounds each and every one of us on a daily basis... I'm not saying that it takes the threat of health to realize how much love is evident in my own life, but sometimes we take our relationships for granted.

"Thank you to all who have sent wonderful, supportive messages and to all my visitors who've shared their love (and unnecessary yet tasty and wonderful gifts)."

The support – based on a quick glance online – has been overwhelming, indeed. Bonneville says her friends registered for the Light the Night Leukemia walk to support her. Her soccer team – U18 DCSG – has been uploading videos to YouTube under the channel 'U18 DCSG LOVE SERENA!', as well, to buoy her in her battle:

Her classmates at Southridge have been shaving their heads and one of Bonneville's friends has offered to shave his head specifically for their upcoming Graduation ceremony and dinner in June.

Of course, she has some thoughts about that part of this process, too.

"I'm on round three of chemotherapy and, although past the point of expectance, still no sign of any hair loss," she wrote on Monday. "I've yet to start balding. You'd think this is something to be fortunate about, but to be honest, I've been instinctively preparing myself for this certainty since day 1... I've become impatient. And impatience has driven me to paranoia. When I shower, I've been strategically gathering my hair in a feeble attempt to trace any excess strands. I brush it constantly, thoroughly searching the bristles on my comb for any clusters of hair.

"Nothing. The suspense is maddening."

Bonneville's blog is both touching and dramatic, a compliment to someone whose bio reads, "like Dustin Hoffman, I aspire to star in a counter culture drama film alongside Tom Cruise, become a critically acclaimed two-time Oscar winner, and then conquer cancer; but perhaps in a different order."

It's informative, providing a definition of synthetic drug Predinsone. It's entertaining and Elizabeth Gilbert-like, too. In the same post, she walks us through multiple Ferris Bueller analogies and her love of food, including the "explosive flavours of a Triple O's Ultimate Chicken Crunch Burger. With extra fries."

What ran through her mind when she first heard the words Leukemia, Cancer, and Chemotherapy?

Four things: A Walk to Remember, 50/50, Breaking Bad, and My Sister's Keeper.

And then, more aggressively, the cop from The Walking Dead. If you've never seen the show, it's about a zombie apocalypse.

"I, like Rick Grimes, intend on wiping out each and every walker (leukemia cell) that dared to threaten the human spirit."

In describing the "physical isolation" of her hospital room, she admits she would have had some challenges living in another decade – without hospital WiFi, texting, iMessaging, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.

That's understandable. Most of us can't get through a bus ride without those things.

"Technology, social media," she wrote last Thursday, October 17. "It all helps cope with the physical isolation but the lack of encounter with the outdoors is maddening.

"So please, for my sake, and in ridicule of this infuriating window, go outside... Let me know how it feels, I look forward to breathing non-processed-hospital-air by this time next week."

Serena's blog, 'Change of Perspective, can be found at BreedingOptimism.blogspot.ca.

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