CANCER!! Just the sound of this word can make people cringe. Sometimes, it is used in a joking matter: "Do not eat that! It will give you cancer." Sadly, no one knows the depth of this word until they hear the doctor say they have it. Cancer changed my life and no matter how bad it was when I was a child; I don't think I would go back and change it.
At a young age parents teach the basic things, such as, remember to say please and thank you, eat everything on your plate, and do not stare at people because it is impolite. Although, after being diagnosed with cancer, let's just say, those lessons take on a different meaning. In the hospital, I learned to say please very quickly. "Please, no more shots! Please, no more pills! Please, please, no more of that medicine that looks like a bag of lemonade/urine." Although, "please" did not work, it did lead to a lot of thanks. I thanked my nurse, Ms. Julie, for always being nice to me; I thanked God everyday to be alive and was especially thankful when my hair started coming back. I was overly thankful for Zofran, the medicine that helped me from getting an upset stomach all the time. When it came to eating everything on my plate, I could never do it.
Then, I got cancer. Along with cancer came doses of steroids that helped me eat everything on my plate and in my fridge, as well. As for the do not stare lesson, I learned firsthand what it felt liked to be stared at, therefore, I didn't want to give that feeling to others. I found out the true meaning of do not judge a book by its cover.
I discovered first hand, that as a child with cancer, you would love to feel better, but what you really want most is to feel a sense of normality. Generous people all over the world create summer camps especially designed so children with cancer can go and have as much fun as possible. The children do not ever once hear, "You're too sick to do that." I was lucky enough to be one of those kids. I was nervous the first time I went to camp. I was scared I would be different than everyone and that I would make no friends. I was completely wrong; I felt "normal". I have made lifelong friends at the camps I have attended and had the opportunity to volunteer as a camp counselor last year and hope to be asked to return again this year. I strive to give these kids a good a time, just as my counselor gave me and it makes me feel good to give back. Sadly, cancer takes away the dreams of some, but, it has only pushed me to want mine more.
For as along as I can remember, my dream has been to become a veterinarian. This takes a minimum of eight years of hard work, dedication, and drive. My nurses and doctors have taught me that these things are not easy but completely worth it in the end. For example, before I was diagnosed with cancer, my pediatrician could not figure out what was wrong with me. She ran test after test and even sent me to Children's Hospital. Every time the same result; negative.
But, she never gave up. I went back to Children' s Hospital where I had a bone marrow test and finally diagnosed with leukemia. I was ten years old and I remember saying, "Well, at least it's not cancer."
I had one special nurse, Ms. Julie. She had a kindness that always made me feel I was in safe hands even during some very scary and painful treatments. She asked me one time what she could do for me and I told her: "You could not give me that shot in my leg!" Her response was: "Mary, I'm sorry, but if I don't give you this injection, you won't get better and I want you to get better." Looking back, she taught me that even in tough times, being dedicated and having the drive to make a difference, really does, make a difference.
If my doctors did not have the hard working dedication they have, I, like so many others would not be here today and for this, I am eternally grateful. After five years of remission, I still continue to use them as models for my life. I have worked extremely hard all four years of high school taking honor classes as well as some AP College Prep classes. Some classes are more of a struggle for me than others, as I do not comprehend things as easily as I once did, so I give it my all until I get better and succeed. I have been a member of Student Council for four years and currently Senior Class President, Vice-President of Peer Leadership and SAAD programs, an Ambassador of MCHS, and honored when my teachers voted me a member of the National Honor Society as well as recognized as a Piasa Leader of Tomorrow and Rotary Club Student of the Month. I have been on the cheerleading squad for four years and currently captain, played soccer for three years, and on the newspaper and yearbook staff. These things, along with my hard work ethic, will help me this fall when I attend Southeast Missouri State University. I have been accepted in their four year, Pre-Veterinary Medicine program and my love for animals and their well-being will keep my desire to continue my education until I earn my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree.
Life is hard, fun, sad, and very unpredictable, but I believe cancer has given me the drive to fight and succeed. It made me expect the unexpected and it reminds me to thank God everyday that is a good day because I know what a bad day is all about.