Getting tested for COVID-19 has become commonplace.
Receiving a negative result is the best-case scenario for most, but for those who remain sick despite testing negative, other health concerns arise and more lab tests are conducted.
That is how Makenna Studer, a sophomore at Minnesota State University, Mankato was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer caused by the rise of white blood cells in the body which greatly weakens the immune system.
“All of my roommates at school tested positive for COVID-19,” says Studer, explaining her initial concern about being sick with the virus. “I was negative.”
Despite her results, Studer began feeling sick three days later.
“That week went by and I wasn’t getting any better,” Studer says. “I was getting worse.”
She exhibited many serious COVID-19 symptoms.“I couldn’t keep any food down,” says Studer. “I was super lightheaded, nauseous, and I was fainting.”
She described herself as a zombie during that time.
“I couldn’t get out of my bed,” Studer says. “It was horrible.”
After failing to recover, her best friend and roommate, Renee Lisovskis, became worried for Studer’s safety.
“She ended up bringing me to the Mankato Clinic on September 25,” says Studer. “They just gave me fluids to bring my temperature down and some nausea medication.”
Studer’s time at the clinic helped her feel better and she was able to go home that same day. She was advised to return if her condition changed.
The following morning, Studer woke up and had trouble breathing. She did as she was told and went back to the clinic.
“They ran a bunch of tests, X-rays, and took my blood,” Studer says.
Afterward, her doctor came in with the news.
“He told me that after looking at my blood tests, there were abnormalities with my white blood cells,” says Studer. “He said that they had a very strong feeling that I had leukemia.”
Shocked by her results, Studer began to cry.
“I was not expecting to go into the hospital for COVID-19 and come out of it with this,” Studer says. “It was really hard to take in.”
Studer was transferred to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester where she was quarantined for two weeks in the COVID-19 unit.
“On October 9, I was transferred to Methodist, where the hematology patients are,” says Studer. “I started IV chemotherapy the next day.”
A couple of weeks after starting chemotherapy, Studer began feeling abdominal pain. She had an X-ray done and the doctors found that, on top of everything else, she had appendicitis.
On October 17, Studer finished her IV chemotherapy and had surgery to remove her appendix.
“I now have to start taking oral chemotherapy,” says Studer. “It targets genetic mutations.”
Throughout it all, Studer has received an endless amount of support from her family, friends and the community around her.
“The support has been absolutely amazing,” says Studer. “I could not have asked for better.”
During her two weeks of quarantine at Saint Marys Hospital, Studer’s friends and family visited and stood in the parking lot which was visible from her window.
They held up signs of encouragement and waved hello.
“That was something that always brightened my day,” Studer says.
The love she received did not stop there.
Studer has accumulated numerous dropped-off goodie bags, snacks, and presents in her room from visitors.
Fundraisers were also held in her honor.
“My step-dad actually owns a bar and grill and all of his employees did a tip day for me,” says Studer. “They gave all of the tips they made on that day to a wig fund or something else that I would need.”
Other community members have shown their support in various ways.
“I managed the boys hockey team in high school and the team put stickers on their helmets with my initials on it,” says Studer.
Her support system has been the cause of her happiness, despite all that she is going through.
“It would be a completely different story without the support I’ve gotten,” Studer says.
In the end, her ability to remain positive comes from her own mental strength.
“There’s no point in moping around and being sad about everything,” says Studer. “I’m just going to put a smile on my face and take it day by day.”
When asked what advice she would give to those going through similar challenges, Studer says, “Your perspective and your mentality are the only things you can change in the situation you are handed.”
In Studer’s words, “the more positive that is, the better you are going to feel.”
Header photo: Makenna Studer, a student at MNSU, tested negative for COVID-19. When symptoms failed to subside, doctors ran several tests, which led to a diagnosis of Leukemia. (Courtesy of Opal & Ox Photograpy and Film)