My name is Ava Paige. I’m a 16-year-old singer/songwriter born and raised in Nashville. I’ve been around music all my life, and I have played guitar since I was 7. When I was 10, I decided to pursue music as a career. I started writing songs, performing wherever I could and learning about the industry. By the beginning of 2019, I was writing twice a day, five days a week with co-writers, meeting with people in the industry and performing more than 150 shows a year. Everything was going well, until July 1, 2019. My life changed forever.
I was doing a small music tour in Texas, playing at local venues in Fort Worth as well as at a children’s hospital there. I wasn’t feeling right, and my mom, being a retired nurse, knew something was wrong. I couldn’t walk from terminal to terminal at the airport without being incredibly winded.
We went to my pediatrician when I got home. She sent us to Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. They ran my blood counts. Six doctors walked in to tell us the news: I had cancer. The diagnosis was acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL for short), and I had to start chemo immediately. I was put into a hospital room for a month and a half straight and had chemo every day. It was incredibly intense. I was faced with a lot of road bumps along the way.
I like to say when people are fighting cancer, we aren’t just fighting cancer, we are also fighting the side effects of chemotherapy. For me, I had medically induced diabetes, water retention/fluid on my lungs, pancreatitis, heart/liver damage and a fungus that ate half my nose. I had five surgeries to remove the fungus, and I lost the septum in my nose as a result.
The treatment was rough, but I was so lucky to have an amazing support team around me! Everyone on the care team at Children’s Hospital was so kind and understanding. I remember one night, I ordered cookies at 2 a.m. and played UNO cards with the night nurses. To this day, I can’t walk around the sixth floor of Children’s Hospital without someone saying “hi.”
My family/musical family also stepped up in a big way! I moved to an online school to pursue music, so instead of having school friends, I was busy creating music with my musical friends. They surrounded me with so much love and support! People would stop by and bring food and gifts, share stories, sing songs and just spend time with me. If I had a rough morning, my mom would call someone to stop by. And by the end of the day, I would be singing and smiling, sometimes forgetting I’m in a hospital room. After surgeries, my favorite sandwich would be sitting on my bed, or someone would bring a fuzzy blanket. Even the “little things” like sending a text or card made a huge difference. By the end of my stay in the hospital, we had to pack two cars full of gifts and bags.
The overwhelming amount of love and support makes it easy to stay positive and keep fighting. Today, I’m on my seven-month chemo countdown, and still writing, singing and performing! If you want to follow my story, you can find me on social media @AvaPaigeMusic.