CHICAGO (WLS) -- Nicole Stevenson, of south suburban Flossmoor, was diagnosed with a life-threatening disease at 23.
Now, she's sharing her story to help others.
"I had no words. The first thing I thought was, 'Will I survive? Am I going to die? What's to come?'" Stevenson said.
Stevenson was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia just a month after graduating from college.
"Honestly, I was going to do whatever it takes to survive. My first question was, 'Will I go bald? Will this be a financial burden on my family?' I didn't know. At the time, I was just focused on surviving," Stevenson said.
Stevenson first started having pain while at work, but never imagined a diagnosis of this magnitude.
"I kept noticing my left side and thought, 'OK, this is really painful. This is strange.' I get cramps bad, but this is a cramp that is not being cured by Advil. Usually I just take some Advil and it goes away," Stevenson said.
After diagnosis, she began treatment right away: steady doctor visits, daily chemo pills and blood transfusions to help maintain her health.
"They are so important. I don't think I'd be sitting here right now if I didn't get the multiple transfusions I've had. There was a time where it was kind of like a trial and error, with different chemo pills. One was a little too strong and just wiped out the blood. That's what lead to me getting transfusions," Stevenson said.
Stevenson is speaking out now, on the importance of blood donation, in an effort to say thank you to those who helped saved her life and encourage others to donate.
"I would say, 'Go out and do it!' And thank you. You don't understand how impactful blood is to one single person. I wish I could know the people that gave their blood, because I truly am forever grateful. You never know how many lives - or just one person's life - you can save doing it," Stevenson said.
Help save lives by donating blood at this year's 5th Annual Great Chicago Blood Drive on Jan. 16 at one of three locations: the CDW in Vernon Hills, on the seventh floor for the Merchandise Mart and the Drake Oak Brook Hotel. Each location will be open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Make an appointment by downloading the American Red Cross Blood Donor App by visiting redcrossblood.org (enter sponsor code: ABC7Chicago) or by calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Flossmoor woman diagnosed with leukemia says blood donations saved her life