Back in the Race After Cancer Diagnosis

Mar 5, 2019 | Kimberly Schmidt | @kimberlyd

Lydia edited size

Blessed with a delightful and contagious personality, Lydia Pankratz does not seem like someone who has battled a serious disease since age 11. Currently a senior at Century High School, Lydia is enjoying her life in full remission since her acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) diagnosis in September 2012.

While on a family trip to Sweden, Lydia began to feel extremely exhausted and eventually found she could not walk, needing to be carried in her father’s arms from location to location. Her parents thought she was suffering from anemia and fed her iron supplements. Once home from the trip, her doctor found her hemoglobin was at 4.6 – an extremely low and dangerous level. She had a bone marrow biopsy, which revealed cancer cells approximately six weeks later. She then underwent intense chemotherapy treatments at Mayo Clinic through January 2015.

“While being treated, I experienced a lot of issues due to the chemotherapy, including steroid-onset diabetes, kidney stones, a suppressed immune system, and pancreatitis,” says Lydia. “I missed a lot of school and really missed hanging out with my friends.”

As a detailed-oriented young lady, Lydia always wanted to know the ‘how’s’ and ‘why’s’ of how everything works. Lydia mentioned how very impressed she was with the way her health care team addressed her in such an adult manner, although she was only 11 years old at the time.

“They all took their time with me and my parents, answering all of our questions,” she shares. “They were all so wonderful to me in the hospital for my 12th birthday. The doctors and nurses made it extra special by decorating my room and writing ‘Happy Birthday, Lydia!’ on my windows.”

Lydia enjoys swimming and has received wonderful support from her coach since the end of her treatment through the present day. This year she is captain of her swim team.

She responded to the chemo treatments very well, and shortly after beginning the treatment regimen, she was found to be in remission. On January 14, 2020, after five years of remission, she will be completely healed and cancer-free.

With Lydia having received many units of blood product during the course of her treatment, her family is extremely grateful for the generosity shown by so many people who donated their blood in order to save Lydia’s life. Lydia has been symptom-free of cancer for many years now and currently is an advocate for our program by encouraging her friends to donate blood whenever Mayo Clinic’s blood drive comes to their school. She is a shining example of how blood can work miracles.

Do you have experience with a blood cancer or disorder like anemia or acute lymphoblastic leukemia? Talk with real members on Mayo Clinic Connect.

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For more information about donating blood in Rochester, Minnesota, call (507) 284-4475 or email Or visit our web page

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