Cancer; It still holds on to me.
When you survive cancer, it holds on to you.
Cancer. A word I never understood growing up. All I knew when I was a kid was as soon as that word was brought up, I would get an extra hug from someone or another piece of candy. Everyone always treated me differently as soon as they heard the words, “I had cancer” come out of my mouth as a child. But I never understood how drastic it was. How much it affected me. Until I realized cancer still holds on to me.
When I was two months old, I was diagnosed with stage four Neuroblastoma, with a 10% chance of survival. This was back in 2006, and it was very rare for a tiny baby to survive a disease like this one, that spread through my stomach and attacked my organs. But I did survive, and everyone always says that is for a reason. The adults in my life usually call me miracle kid. They tell me I am lucky to have survived cancer. But, I don’t usually feel lucky. Because cancer still holds on to me.
Whenever the word cancer gets brought up, I have to remember to take deep breaths as all the memories of this disease come flooding back through my head. Memories of scans, blood draws, and survivorship appointments where they give me more long-term side effects and restrictions. But most importantly, memories of the friends I have had from cancer. Memories of the four year old angel Ellie dancing with me. Memories of crying happy tears while I stood next to the best role model I could have asked to have, get married to her soulmate. Then these happy memories shatter, as I remember the days I found out they didn’t survive cancer. As I remember the pain on their parents’ faces as they are forced to live life with a hole in their hearts and their child no longer by their side. As I remember the sadness and confusion I felt, to not know how to go on as a normal teenager as my friends were no longer with me. As I remember the anger rushing through my body that cancer took some of the best people from my life. That cancer still holds on to me.
When you lose someone, to something so drastic as cancer, you start to feel like a piece of who you are was taken away from you. Like you’re not whole without them. When you lose someone to the same disease you had, you feel like that disease is still chasing after you, everyday, taunting you that you will never get away from it. When you are told you were the 1 in ten kids to survive this disease when your friends were the other nine, you start to look at life as a burden. As something you shouldn’t be living but someone else should. You start to feel like you are in the hunger games, where people are applauding you for being the one kid that survived. But you must continue to survive, because cancer holds on to you.
I have always had this fear that I would get cancer again. That my family would have to step back into that hospital and go through the horrible experience they had to go through again, for me. But I feel like that fear in the back of my mind was not getting cancer again, but not being able to fight it. Not being as strong as I was as a baby. I constantly get told whenever I get a cut or bruise, “You have been through worse” and people have always told me they see a fighter in me, just like they saw when I was a baby. But I have always been worried that I am not the fighter they want me to be. I am not as strong as they think I am. That I am playing a part I was not meant to play. That I was just lucky. That cancer knew if it still holds on to me, I will break eventually.
But, recently I have started to realize that cancer isn’t this constant obstacle ahead of me. It is this shadow behind me. Cancer is always going to be in my life. I can’t deny it. Not because cancer is me, but because cancer made me who I am today. Cancer will always have a grip on me. It will always follow me. But it will always be one step behind me. It may take some of my friends away from me, but those friends will always be with me and will always drive my passion to cure cancer and continue to live my life no matter the obstacles. My friends didn’t lose their battle to cancer, they won it. Because they never gave up and they never let cancer steal their joy and strength. They fought to the end. Because of them, so will I. I will never let cancer make me feel trapped by it or constantly held back by it. Of course, I will have my bad days. Everyone does. But, when cancer decides to take course again in my body or limit me more, I will be ready. Because it is a shadow. So I will turn my face towards the sun. Maybe, cancer is holding on to me. Or maybe, I am holding on to cancer, because I will not rest until a cure is found and every child gets to live a life without long term side effects of cancer.
So, feel free to hold on to me cancer. I am not done with you yet.