A blessing in disguise

October 20, 2017

It seemed as if I had been laying on the top of Mt. Everest to bathing in the lava of a scorching volcano. I felt cold chills racing throughout my body as I shook uncontrollably. My body would then suddenly reach high temperatures. When I was asleep I didn’t need to worry about what I would encounter ahead. Unfortunately, sleeping became difficult as time went by. I was in great despair. All I had to rely on was hope, thousands of pills, and my motivation to give back to society. Being diagnosed with Chronic Myeloid Leukemia at seventeen years old was a mess. I searched within myself to find the tools to clean it up. The physical pain was strong, but my mental focus was greater.
I was a curious boy in a life full of questions. I was pursuing my dreams, creating and conquering goals, doing what I loved to do, overall, I was happy. Challenges would come in my life, and there would be bumps along the road, but despite those adversities I have always striven to become the best I could be. I was raised as an athlete, always competing in different sports, from track and field in elementary school, to football, wrestling, and baseball in middle school, and finally soccer in high school, the sport my heart holds dear inside. I learned how to deal with problems on the field, and those lessons helped me in the world around me. Everything as simple as communicating and holding relationships, to knowing your limits physically and mentally, and going beyond them.
Cancer in general was something that I knew about in a broad sense, I only knew about the illness from holding fundraisers at my schools for the Leukemia and Lymphoma society as I would actively participate. There would be speakers telling stories of children like me dealing with those illnesses. Other than the stories, and fundraisers, my life was never impacted greatly by cancer.
As I pursued my dreams of playing soccer professionally, I met my high school coach my freshman year as I made the varsity team for my school. Coach Sean Smith stood out from all my other coaches I previously had. He recognized my talent, but also my personality on and off of the field. He was a humble man that could quickly bring a smile to anyone’s face. Not only was Coach Smith a soccer coach, but also a youth pastor, and an engineering teacher at my school. Coach smith believed in me so much, he would always push me, and reminded me every day that I was someone great and could reach high levels of soccer, which was the driving force that led me through my freshman season, and receiving an all league goalkeeper award as a freshman, something very rare. Coach quickly became someone who I admired.
This is where cancer first struck a deep hole in heart. After spending a year with coach Smith, he notified me that he would not be my coach for the upcoming season as he became diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. I became scared and worried but at the same time, was assured. Coach Smith assured me that he would overcome the illness and beat cancer. As time went on, I noticed all the changes that would occur in my coach. He lost lots of weight, and would always have headaches, if not be fatigued, as these were some of the few symptoms of chemotherapy. As time went on, things would get better for my coach, but then, I was struck by cancer. The very first thing that came to my head when they told me my diagnosis, was him. I told myself that I would fight just like coach Smith. I spent some time in the hospital when I was first diagnosed, and did not make contact with anyone. As soon as I was released and made it to school, I went on and looked for coach Smith. I wanted to let him know that I have became a warrior like him, but things got challenging for coach and would spend all his time at the hospital. A couple of days passed after I was released, and I heard the news, that coach Smith passed away. The feelings I felt, were unexplainable to this day, losing someone very dear to a burden I carried as well. This didn’t bring me down, but only gave me more motivation to fight. I gave a speech at my coaches candle lighting, and let everyone know, that I would beat cancer, and I was going to do it, for coach Smith.
Being diagnosed with leukemia was about, adapting and modifying. Leukemia took away my abilities to move and be active like I normally was. My lifestyle and hobbies changed in an instant, I had to adapt and tried to find new hobbies and things to do, but I couldn’t find anything that could replace fitness and sports, so instead I put all my efforts in rehabilitation. Soon after 3 months, I was was up and running again, not at the levels I was at before, but back on track. I was also introduced to a new community. I spent a lot of time at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital, and met many new friends, from kids to all ages, to many doctors and nurses. Throughout this whole experience, I’ve had to adapt to the symptoms of oral chemotherapy, which was the solution to controlling my illness, and also having to modify and try different types of chemotherapy now twice, since the first and second types of oral chemo have not worked like the doctors hoped they would. Even tho this was the beginning of my new life, I still possessed the knowledge, courage, and strength that I learned throughout my seventeen years of living and playing sports. This would be another bump on the road that I will overcome like all the others in the past.
Now, after a year of living with this illness inside of me, I know it was a blessing in disguise. Not only have I’ve grown, but also learned what I want to do in life. I want to enter college and become like my doctors. I want to pursue the path to be a pediatrician in hematology oncology. During high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, as an Athletic trainer or something else in sports medicine. Now I have a more specific goal, something that lets me give back to world.
Cancer tried taking away what I loved most, but failed, because I have returned to the field, and even overcame the levels of abilities I’ve ever had in my life. I continue to play soccer, and before every game, I remember my coach, and the words he preached to me. I can now say i’m living as close as to what a normal life would be like, living happy. Even though our first plans didn’t work, me and my doctors are ready for the final plan. I am now preparing myself to go through a bone marrow transplant to get rid of the cancer completely. I have no fears, I am ready for anything, and I know I will beat cancer.
Jose Barbosa