"I know I have been given a gift and cannot waste my life just waiting for the cancer to return someday"
I still remember sitting in my living room when I was eight years old with my parents telling me my cancer had come back. I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when I was two years old and relapsed when I was eight. I don't remember much from the first time I had cancer since I was such a young age but the second time I remember distinctly. Having cancer as a child forces someone to go through things no child should have to face. The challenges I encountered from having leukemia at a young age have made a huge impact on my life and continue to shape my future.
With my personal experience, leukemia made me noticeably different from other kids my age and caused me to miss out on many things. First off, I had to be taught by a home-bound teacher my third grade year of elementary school. While my peers thought it was neat I only had school two days a week, I really missed having friends and felt secluded from the rest of the world. The worst part of cancer, however, was losing my hair. When I went back to school my fourth grade year, my baldness was a constant reminder to everyone that I had cancer and was different from them. I remember a time in gym class when we were learning to square dance and a boy refused to hold my hand because he said I had a disease. I was rejected by my classmates based on something I had no control over. By possessing this "outsider" status at such a young age, I was able to learn valuable lessons about friendships and how to overcome issues like this in the future.
While there are many negative effects placed on a child diagnosed with cancer, there are encouraging experiences as well. The dedication of my nurses has inspired me to become a nurse in pediatric oncology as my future career. The interactions and relationships I had with my nurses when I was a patient have stuck with me throughout my life. One particular memory that motivates me is when I was in the hospital for a week, missing the opportunity to play in the first snow outside. My parents brought me up a basin full of snow and I used it for a surprise snowball attack on one of the nurses and she responded a few minutes later by coming into my room and squirting me with a syringe of water. Through these actions, my mind was taken off of my illness and I felt like a normal kid, even if it was only for a moment. Now that I am older I realize how much the positive encounters you having during treatment can help your recovery. The ability of the nurses to make me feel accepted and like an ordinary child was of great significance in my healing process. Therefore, I am dedicated to my future career in pediatric oncology nursing so I can help future childhood cancer patients in the same way I was.
From being in the hospital since I was little, I have become very used to that environment. The familiarity of it has allowed me to succeed in areas of healthcare, such as volunteering which I have participated in for four years. I started as a Junior Volunteer at Presbyterian Hospital when I was fourteen and work in the Blume Pediatric Oncology and Hematology Clinic. Since then, I've continued to volunteer there once a week throughout high school and have completed over 200 hours of service. Because I have experienced having cancer personally, I enjoy working with patients going through what I did and am able to interact with them in ways that others cannot. From volunteering at the clinic, I have learned from nurses, doctors, and child life specialists the best ways to treat and help children who are battling cancer. Volunteering will be beneficial to my future because I not only know what it's like to face the illness as a child myself, but also how to treat patients from an outside point of view.
Since I was six years old, I've been attending a week long camp in Lake Lure, North Carolina every summer for cancer survivors and their siblings. It's called Camp C.A.R.E. (Cancer Ain't Really the End) and is run by volunteers and staff from the two hospitals in Charlotte. During my relapse, I was especially grateful to get away for a week to be with other cancer patients and have fun like a normal kid. This helped me realize I wasn't alone in the fight and there were many other kids going through the same things I was. Last summer was my last year as a camper but this year I am coming back as a counselor in training. I know personally how much of an impact feeling included and experiencing activities other children do has on a patient and I am extremely excited to give back to this community in any way I can. Even after I have established my career in nursing, I will continue to serve in events like this because I am fully aware of their extraordinary significance to a child with cancer.
Being diagnosed with cancer at a young age has inspired me to help others and has defined my future career. Because I've had this experience firsthand, I have an advantage over others in areas of understanding what childhood cancer patients go through. I specifically know the effects of treatments and how they can affect a child's life. The lessons I've learned through my cancer diagnosis are extremely valuable to me and the person I have become. I know I have been given a gift and cannot waste my life just waiting for the cancer to return someday. Instead, I must embrace the fact that I am alive and healthy and the purpose of my survival is to help others in any way I can. I believe there is no greater use of my individual experience than to give back to the healthcare community and I am truly dedicated to achieving this future goal.