I had to say goodbye to a lot of things when I first said hello to cancer: Goodbye school uniform, hello hospital gown. Goodbye long blond hair, hello itchy wig. Goodbye strong healthy body, hello to being weak and brittle. Goodbye Grade 12, hello cancer...
My diagnosis didn't happen like the normal cliche -- walking into the doctor's office, sitting down while the doctor puts one hand on your knee and says, "You have cancer."
It was the exact opposite of that actually, because no one really told me. After having trouble breathing, I was rushed into emergency tracheotomy surgery because my breathing was obstructed by a "lump." Once I woke up from the surgery, I started to hear the word "tumor" being thrown around amongst my parents and the doctors. It's safe to say I was slowly eased into the idea that I had cancer. No one directly told me, I slowly figured it out on my own.
After going back and forth with pathology reports, it was confirmed that my tumor was a clear cell sarcoma, the first recorded case in the world. My first step of treatment was chemotherapy. This is when the cancer started to feel real.
The day I found out that I needed chemotherapy I decided to cut all of my hair off and donate it to Locks Of Love
. I left the salon with nothing more than a little pixie cut. The chemo started to kick in and the minimal amount of hair left on my head started to fall out. To go from long blond hair to patchy bald spots was something I ever expected to experience at 17 years old, and it's definitely not something you can prepare yourself for. As much as I thought I could handle it, I knew that eventually there was going to be a breaking point. It came when I realized I didn't recognize myself when I looked in the mirror.
Many cancer patients buy wigs and are able to walk out in public without having to worry about the stares. But for me, I had more than my hair to worry about -- I also had a large tracheotomy mark.
I got creative with scarves and turtle necks, but I still never felt like myself. I was putting on a disguise. As I was getting ready to go out one day, I took a second look in the mirror; I had on a short blond wig to cover my bald head, big sunglasses to cover up my lost eyelashes, a big blue scarf to cover up my trach, and a long sleeve shirt to cover up my PICC line. Needless to say, I didn't recognize myself. I looked in the mirror and saw a girl trying her hardest just to look normal so no one would stare at her. And a girl who wished she could wake up in the morning and just leave the house without thinking about it.
But I accepted that it was my reality and decided that it was okay
. There is no secret to beating cancer: just an acceptance of it, and the ability to enjoy what life has to offer -- with a wig, a trac, or anything else.
If you're happy, you're halfway there.
Were you diagnosed at a young age? How did you deal with the things you said goodbye to?