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Josh Lentin, Sean Mellon, Megan Hamerdinger

by Staff Writer / New York Islanders

My name is Josh Lentin. I am a 22-year-old senior at Lynn University, from Merrick.

When I was 10 days old, I turned blue from toe to head. Yes, I know, the saying is from head to toe, but I tend to make everything difficult. So my body decided to turn blue from toe to head. By March of 1993, I had been diagnosed with a few different heart problems and had undergone two open heart surgeries and three pacemaker implants. On March 9th, 1993, I underwent my first of three heart transplants at the age of three. On December 7th, 1994, at the age of five, I underwent my second heart transplant. All was well besides some minor bumps in the road until the age of eleven, when on April 8th, 2001, I received my third heart transplant. None of this stuff stopped me from doing what I wanted to do and being a normal kid, I just lived my life the way I wanted to.

Fast forward another four years to November of 2005. I didn't feel well one day after a normal day of my sophomore year in high school. The way I felt at the time usually meant that I had pneumonia or a sinus infection, but that didn't seem to be the case. After a week of unexplained fever, the doctors were still trying to figure out what was wrong with me. This time, the doctor pressed on my stomach and I screamed in pain. Tests were run and the results showed a tumor in my stomach; I was diagnosed with Post Transplant Lymphoproliferative Disease (PTLD). PTLD is a form of cancer that comes from taking certain medications as a transplant recipient. I started chemo on Monday, November 15th, 2005, and just like always, I became the rare case that no doctor could or will ever be able to figure out. I beat PTLD in just under a month. The tumors were gone, but I continued treatment to make sure there was no reoccurrence. With the doctors questioning my body, I continued to do my thing and lived my life being the normal kid that I was.

Now lets rewind a little. Back in 1994, after having my first transplant, my family was introduced to a boy and his parents who was just a year younger than me awaiting a heart transplant. This kids name was Sean Mellon. From that first day, we became friends, not only because we were introduced or because we were so close in age, but because we had a special bond that not many people can say they have, even with the friends that I have made over the last 22 years.

Now fast forward again to September 9th, 2010. I was sitting in my room in my apartment watching television when my phone rang and my dads name lit up on the screen. I picked up and the first thing that I was told was that Sean had died the night before in his parents arms. Sean had been diagnosed with PTLD back in 2006 and had tried fighting it off for four years. He, however, was not as lucky as me. I had lost, or almost lost, at least one friend a year since 2007, but no loss was/is as hard on me as losing my friend Sean, my brother, a wonderful kid with such a special bond that no one can understand. 

The survivors guilt was so bad that I was introduced to one of the most amazing people I had ever known, Megan Hamerdinger. Megan is a 22-year-old survivor of Leukemia. She was just six years old when she was diagnosed. She lost her beautiful blonde hair (she is now brunette) and had a bunch of other side effects that come with cancer. Megan was able to beat her cancer, but unfortunately has lost many friends at such young ages to their battles. Megan and I were introduced to each other as someone to lean on in rough times, but we have become more then that. Since September 15, 2010, we have only gone one day with out talking.

Megan and I both sit on our respective Relay for Life committees, an American Cancer Society event to raise money and awareness for cancer. Megan is the chair of Florida Atlantic Universities event and I am the logistic chair for Lynn Universities event. Megan and I were lucky enough to survive such a terrible disease and now we will do whatever it takes to make sure, in the future, the word cancer is eliminated from the dictionary.
Josh Lentin
Merrick, NY

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