When looking up cancer on the internet, tons of different sites provide information on types, symptoms, causes, tests, and treatments. Websites show pictures of lumps, they talk about chemo and radiation, and they show the four stages of cancer. Malignant tumors? Abnormal cell growth? Chemotherapy?
As a fifth grader, these were not words that I understood. This was not what I was looking for. Being ten years old, I was more concerned about breast cancer’s effect on my family, instead of the anatomy. Would this change my mom’s personality? Would she be gone and in the hospital all the time? Would we lose all of our money on surgeries? Would our family fall apart? Most importantly, will Mom be here with us in a year?
My parents tried to protect my brother and I from the reality of what was happening. We knew to cry when we were told Mom had cancer, but we did not know about the instant changes that were to come with that diagnosis. There were many nights when she was up sick. I remember how hard it was on her to lose her hair. She lost her taste, she had reactions to the medicine, and the pain that came with the many surgeries was almost unbearable to watch. Cancer is disgusting.
We went through months of fighting this horrible disease and we never knew for sure how it was going to end. I remember the night in 2012 when my parents told us that we would be going to Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Mom said there was a retreat in July that our family was asked to go on because she had breast cancer. I did not know exactly what that meant, but I was thrilled that Mom was feeling healthy enough to go on a trip together.
The Little Pink Houses of Hope trip to NC was the turning point for our family in our cancer journey. It was the moment when I felt like I had my family back. It gave us a time to have fun and laugh together. I had my mom back. It is hard for me to remember all the specifics from this trip. We loved surfing, paddle boarding, and dinner at the aquarium. Most of all, I will never forget the people that were there. The kids we bonded with that had moms going through the same thing, and the workers of the retreat turned to family. I finally felt like I was in a place with people who were like us. They understood, they cared, and they loved on us hard. In this week, our past months of hell turned to months filled with hope. It rejuvenated us for the final leg of our cancer journey.
We returned from our trip, and our family was closer than I think we had ever been before. We continued to carry the love and hope with us and Mom was finally cured. After fourteen months of chemo and twelve surgeries later, my Mom was breast cancer free. Our family was cancer free again.
From this point in time, I have wanted to go to college and study medicine. I belong in the health field and I know I am called to be a pediatric nurse. I want to help others with illnesses and I want to provide care. I cannot help but believe that my mom having cancer has a lot to do with why I feel like my purpose is to heal and take care of others in a hospital setting.
I am now planning to attend Iowa State University to go into Kinesiology. After four years of Kinesiology, I will attend nursing school. I then plan to go get a job at a hospital, get married, and start my very own family. I love medicine, anatomy, and working with people. I also want to use my past experiences to benefit others.
I was what they called a cancer kid. A kid whose life was altered by cancer. I am now an eighteen year old and my past helps define who I am. Cancer is cancer. It can be seen as a tragedy, or it can be seen as an opportunity. In my case, this was an opportunity. My time as a cancer kid turned me into a person who strives to help, heal, and love. I am a person who plans to take care of those other cancer kids.