The Beginning

Written by: Natalie M.
May 21, 2021

The Beginning

Camera zooms in on a needle/iv and pans out to a busy hospital room. Our heroine lays in a hospital gown surrounded by doctors, nurses, and machines – unfazed by all of the activity.

Have you ever wondered if life is real? For a while, my life has seemed like a movie, filled with laughter, tears, and enough twists and turns to keep everyone on the edge of their seat.

Montage of our 12-year-old heroine playing softball, swimming in the ocean, hanging out with friends. Cut to our heroine in a doctor’s office with her parents.

For the past six years I’ve been dealing with something that most kids don’t think about. Shortly after my twelfth birthday, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).  Cancer has taken a lot from my life but it has also provided me with a lot, too. I discovered how lucky I am to have a strong support system, and more importantly, I realized how strong I am. Despite missing school for an entire year, I kept up with my schoolwork and maintained good grades, and even convinced my medical team that I could return to the softball field. I thought I was headed to the feel-good ending of this short film.

Montage of our now 14-year-old heroine with a feeding tube, in the hospital for an extended month-long stay, getting chemo and finishing her final treatment.

But there was another plot twist. As I began my Junior Year, I was re-diagnosed with this horrible disease. In order to achieve remission, I needed a bone marrow transplant. Unlike my first diagnosis, this treatment took a bigger toll on me mentally and physically. But the support of my family and friends helped to motivate me to focus on my future. When I was invited to join the National Honor Society, I felt like a normal high school junior – not just the kid with cancer. The bone marrow transplant went well, and I thought things were looking up.

Camera focuses on our heroine at the NHS induction ceremony. Cut to a shot of Seattle Washington, our heroine sight-seeing, and then in a hospital room.

However, life had other plans for me. In 2020, I was diagnosed with cancer for a third time. Now the viewer might think they have seen this movie before, and I can’t blame them. This time I moved 3,000 miles across the country to participate in a clinical trial in Seattle, Washington. I was accepted into a CarT 19 trial, where I was one out of 15 patients in the world to receive this groundbreaking therapy. Even though I missed most of my high school experience, I am fortunate to remain on track and graduate with my peers.

Our heroine looks to the horizon, hopeful as she writes this essay.

I have learned that you cannot control what life throws at you, but you can control how you react. I have learned that you should never take life for granted, nothing is guaranteed. This journey has taught me that a strong and loving support system is one of the best things when battling a disease like cancer. Having people who have your back no matter what, have made a huge difference to me over the past six years.

Although this disease has taken a lot from me, like the ability to grow up like a normal teenager, I’ve learned that I will never give up on anything. I can always find the positive in any bad situation.

I am looking forward to a new chapter of my life. One that involves new beginnings, independence and a promising future. College will be the stepping stone that enables me to start building my new future.

Final scene – college graduation ceremony, hats thrown in the air, our heroine posing for a picture with family and friends – closing title “The Beginning.”

Natalie M.