The Privilege of Finals Week and Higher Education As Told By a Cancer Survivor
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The Privilege of Finals Week and Higher Education As Told By a Cancer Survivor

We will survive finals week together

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The Privilege of Finals Week and Higher Education As Told By a Cancer Survivor

It is easy to find yourself overwhelmed during the end of a college semester. Trust me, I think I rather be anywhere in the world than being on the second floor of Cook Library. The lack of natural sunlight followed the florescent light bulbs that beam into your eyes can really lower ones morale. If you sit in there long enough, you lose your sense of time and fail realize how dark it is outside. One thing that humbles me during this stressful time of year is some introspection. I think I have to compartmentalize and rationalize my situation by reminding myself just how much it took for me to be in college. While I grew up in a very loving and stable environment, coming of age was nothing short of a challenge for me.

As young teenagers, we convince ourselves that we are invincible to anything that life throws our way. Sleep deprivation, lack of nutrients, rash decisions, we do it all with little to no adverse affects. I too had the mindset that nothing could stop me, I did everything and anything just for that sense of instant gratification. Nothing could stop me, or so I thought.

Prior to being a teenager, I had issues with a gland in my body called the Thyroid Gland. Thyroid gland issues run rampant on my fathers side of the family. If we ever had a family reunion for his side of the family, each one of us would have a scar on the base of our necks. When I was nine years old, I noticed a lump on my neck that seemed larger than the surrounding tissue. Like any concerned nine year old, I ran to my parents and showed them my discovery. Shortly after showing them this "discovery" I found myself in a hospital waiting for a diagnosis. Looking back, nine year old me was not frightened at all because I had more on my mind like playing Pokemon on my Nintendo DS or something. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism which caused my body to metabolize calories and fat at an extremely high level, which in hindsight explained why I was so thin as a child regardless of how much I consumed. The diagnosis resulted in a surgery to remove 1/4th of my thyroid gland. After that procedure, I was back to my healthy, rambunctious nonsense. Nothing could stop me, the world was my oyster. Well, at least until I found another lump on the the side of my thyroid gland at age sixteen.

Upon physical touch, the lump felt identical to the one I previously had at a young age, but to be on the safe side we decided to have a professional look at it. They did the routine blood work that diagnosed my last thyroid issue but for some reason, my blood results came out completely normal. Shortly after the blood examination, the doctor suggested that I do an outpatient biopsy of my thyroid gland and the lump found within. The outpatient procedure involved a local numbing agent followed by injections of a local anesthetic which numbed the area all together. While completely awake and under no forms of sedation, they inserted a 5 inch long needle directly into my neck and took samples of the gland. I was told to wait a week for the results of the biopsy. When I say that was the longest week of my life, you could only imagine the levels of anxiety I had as a sixteen year old in the midst of a new school transition while waiting to see if the lumps in her neck were cancerous or not. I was in the middle of volleyball conditioning for the new fall season when my dad drove to my school and picked me up early. This 10 minute drive home felts as if an eternity passed because the overall mood within the car was daunting and silent. I came home to my mother choking back tears while holding a thick binder that said in bold text "Thyroid Cancer Procedures".

Now to keep a long story short, I received surgery to completely remove the gland and I had to do follow-up treatments of radioactive therapy. Due to the drop of my thyroid hormone levels, I lost chunks of hair, my body began functioning at low, lethargic levels to the point where getting out of bed was one of the biggest challenges for me. Due to the treatments, I had to be home schooled for a semester. All of the weeks back and forth from the hospital proved to me that I took my health and well-being for granted. I promised myself that If I finish these treatments and get back to health, that I would live my life to the fullest.

I survived.

This turning point was the open gateway for me to start enjoying life and everything it throws at me. I want to fully experience every emotion, every opportunity, every circumstance, regardless if the experiences produce positive or negative emotions. I am lucky enough to even feel emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger because I am alive. I am breathing, I am on this beautiful planet so I might as well use every single ounce of it. The fact that I am even granted the opportunity to study at a university and the opportunity to expand my mind and relieve myself of ignorance is a privilege that I do not ever want to take for granted.

So back to finals week, which is just days away. I have to keep convincing myself that this is just another hurdle I need to jump over. You would think that I could be mentally prepared for something as rudimentary as final exams after the experiences I have gone through. Just like you, I am in a panicked state. It is okay to worry, worry means that you care. If you're anything like me though, you tend to worry more than the average person. This is when I force myself to sit down and think about bigger things than a week filled with tests. It is a privilege that I woke up this morning to the smell of the crisp spring air. I am fortunate that I have my health. I am fortunate to be on a beautiful college campus surrounded by people who I adore.

I want to remind you of something. While this week may take you to your emotional breaking point, while this week may cause you to neglect your body of sleep and essential sustenance, I want to remind you that this week along with being a student of a higher education based institution is such a privilege. The fact that you will leave this institution with the knowledge and brain capacity to succeed in your future career is something that is desired by so many people. While things are seemingly tough, I remind myself that this is all for a reason, and that being here means something to me. You all have a reason you're in college, use that reason to fuel you through this week. Conquer this week for the person who physically cannot experience this week due to health reasons. Conquer this week because you've done it before, and you can do it again.

This week will come and go. This will not affect you environment, your friendships, your aspirations, the fundamental factors that made you YOU.

I remind myself that this is just one obstacle that I have to hurdle, just as cancer was. If I could get through cancer, I am pretty sure I can get through finals week, of course with the assistance of caffeine. I am someone who would never invalidate someones problems, we all have issues, especially with finals week because trust me, even for someone like myself who has gone through so much, finals week may feel like the end of the world but I assure you, you got this.


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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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