She was just 15 when it happened. She started having trouble breathing when she ran cross-country, and she felt intense itching on her body, especially her lower limbs. She would stay up all night because of it, but she wasn't really worried, just annoyed.
After visits to different skin doctors, an evaluation by a pediatric dermatologist at Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Oregon changed everything.
“He was the one who said that this is really concerning and there is something more than a skin problem going on. He ordered some blood tests, and the results were not good, so then he ordered an MRI,” said Shira Einstein, now a third-year undergraduate medical student at Oregon Health and Science University.
Her mother broke some of the news to her.
“One day she picked me up at school, and I got in the car. She just started crying and she said, 'I just got a call about the MRI they did at Doernbecher, and they need us to go talk to a cancer doctor today,'" Einstein recalled.
The MRI showed a 10-centimeter mass in her chest. Her oncologist told her she had a life-threatening form of cancer that, if left untreated, would result in her death within a year. As she was undergoing treatment, she said, she had a very positive relationship with her doctors and nurses. The process forced her to become more emotionally mature; she remembers sitting in a room with doctors and talking about issues such as fertility.
“I grew up really fast. I think I went from being a kid that went to school and hung out with friends to getting this really intense sense of responsibility. I was like, I am going to be a doctor. I have to be a doctor, because these people saved my life,” Einstein said.