I am sitting on the cold tiles on the floor of our small bathroom. My mom walks in and almost steps on my glasses. I flinch- I threw them on the floor carelessly and I don’t want them to break. She shrugs it off and sits next to me. She’s trying to calm me down. “It’s ok” she says.
I have lost a lot of childhood memories, but I will never forget this particular day. I just got out of the hospital, acute appendicitis, the doctos said and cut me open. I can still feel the fresh wound from my surgery burning in my stomach. I was about ten years old, it was summer and I was so young, but not stupid.
Cancer. I already knew what it was, it kind of runs in our family and we had already mentioned it at home. I was young, but I instantly knew that this phone call from the hospital was bad. I was ten years old and my first thought was: Why me?
The first shock wave was over. What followed were five years of doctor’s appointments, bloodwork, ultrasounds. Doctors explaining to me and my parents what we would see on the monitor, which tests they would do with my blood. Asking if they could send the results to an institute in the north, because my case was so rare and they wanted to observe the development. Three days before any appointment, I wasn’t allowed to eat certain foods because of my serotonin levels, which would affect the test results.
Ten years old, diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, practically as healthy can be again but confused, and the worst thing about it was that I couldn’t eat pizza for three days.
At 15, they told me that medical association changed the guidelines and that children, not only adults, should be observed and tested for 10 years, not five. I was ready for my last appointment and they told me I had to come in once a year until I was 20. Enduring the smell of the hospital, half-gods in white coats smiling at your face while you are thinking about the cancer returning. Them telling you it’s almost impossible after all the time. Children getting cancer should be an impossible thing overall, don’t you think? Biting your tongue during your teenage years because the shit they see all day in the childrens’ oncology must make anyone sickly friendly and blatantly optimistic.
At about 13, I had the worst encounter of my whole life. It still is, after family deaths, my own diagnosis, my suicidal thoughts and everything.
A young dad sitting in the waiting room of the oncology tract, his maybe 2-year-old daugher sitting on his lap playing with the buttons of his shirt. Another parent comes in, a mom with her son. The daughter is facing her dad so she cannot see the mom. She asks: I haven’t seen you in a while, how are you doing? I nervously play with my long hair. The young girl doesn’t have any. I look up to the dad, as he is tensing up. He doesn’t say anything, he just shakes his head, caressing his daughter’s hairless little head, I am feeling sick because here I am sitting, playing with my long hair, asking: Why me? As I am healthy, getting routine check-ups, facing a man who looks at his dying daughter every single day.
Still I had years to come filled with complaining, letting chances slide, being impatient, being ungrateful.
So today, I am thanking my parents, Mom and Dad. For being there through tantrums, depressive phases, the countless doctor’s appointments, the bloodwork, ultrasounds, hearing the doctors explanations about what we would see on the monitors. Agreeing to let doctors observe my progress for their medical studies because my case was so rare. Promising to feed me pizza and chocolate ice cream after the appointments were done because right after, I was allowed to eat everything again. Promising me that this time would pass.
I am still afraid of hospitals. I hate the smell, I fear the half-gods in white coats because I associate bad news with them. 10 years of appointments, bloodwork and ultrasounds.
I am coming to terms with appreciating life. With religiously pursuing a healthy lifestyle because my body has carried me through everything. Bodies are strong, but we only have this one version of them. 10 years of my body being a medical case and I feel like my body is mine now again, healthy and strong.
I send the strongest of love to anyone battling cancer because I didn’t go through chemo, further surgery or anything like that. Nobody deserves this and you are all fighters.