What No One Tells You About Terminal Cancer

What No One Tells You About Terminal Cancer

No one tells you that every time you step outside to be greeted by the sun, it will be more than just the sun just shining down on you.
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In elementary school, I met a strawberry blonde named Hannah. First impression? She was a total spitfire with a constellation of freckles on her cheeks and eyes that reflected her soul – full of life. Our childhoods were bliss. We were little girls as naive as sprouts whose roots were hardly established in the garden of this world. Hannah was a 13-year-old eternal optimist, forced to grow up too fast.

Because that’s what terminal cancer does. It steals childhoods, obliterates futures, and takes away the life in a little girl’s eyes.

I embarked on the journey of our friendship unaware that I would vicariously live through a battle of life versus death and come out in the end a new person… but without the warrior beside me to tell her own tale.

One year after her original diagnosis of brain cancer, Hannah received an update of massive tumor growth – essentially, her ticket to death. And a few days later, I ventured to the hospital with not a clue of what to expect because my best friend was invincible to me. I had never heard a complaint about the treatment reeking havoc upon her body or the side effects. My hopes were high until reality struck my preteen world that day.

The exquisite pain of wanting something unobtainable usually becomes trivial as life goes on. But what if all you wanted was another day with a beating heart, a functioning brain, or the opportunity to breathe?

Everyone who has walked through a pediatric oncology unit has a different type of understanding of what it means to be alive. Cracked doors and windows reveal children of all ages in the midst of fighting for a change in fate… sterilization masks and hair that’s long gone, but still believing in magic. Even if that magic won’t provide them with a cure.

After getting the news myself, I laid beside Hannah in that hospital bed. And through her slurred speech and tainted vision – we put together a list of her wishes that evolved into a legacy of our friendship, the beauty of life, and death. That list holds an explanation for why I wore hot pink stilettos to the funeral and why the name “Hannah” will definitely be embroidered on my wedding gown.

Inevitably a month later, Hannah died in her very own bed, in her Monmouth County home.

It’s almost three years later, her 17th birthday is right around the corner, and sometimes the realization that she’s gone still hits me as if I’m a child standing in the ocean hit by an oncoming wave. Because when your best friend dies from cancer freshman year, no one tells you how it’s going to affect the rest of your life.

No one tells you that you’re going to be numb at the wake. And you’re going to have trouble finding the words for a goodbye letter to put under her casket’s pillow for eternity.

No one tells you that chances are – you’ll sob alone in the bathroom at school on what should have been her Sweet 16. And each milestone will conjure up more tears because it’s just not fair.

No one tells you that resting sunflowers on her grave every summer isn’t the same as the old adventures throughout the summer haze of your childhoods, and passing her house on your neighborhood run will never become easier.

No one tells you that time doesn’t stop for anyone because life comes and goes by the numbers. But the meaning of time is impossible to define until you’ve realized the value of each moment.

But no one tells you that you can venture on in the face of a horrible prognosis and move forward ready to empathize with others as they face tragedies of their own.

No one tells you that no matter who you meet or where you travel in the world, you will always find a piece of your friend. Whether it’s in that pair of vaguely familiar blue eyes on a stranger at Target. Or how you get a laugh out of Nutella gelato in Europe – because she was allergic to hazelnuts.

No one tells you that if you open your heart – you will gain a new family. Her mother becomes your mother and best friends become your sisters. The teachers who once taught you academics will teach you about life and the names of people in your hometown are no longer just familiar faces. Everyone has a story.

And no one tells you that every time you step outside to be greeted by the sun, it will be more than just the sun just shining down on you.

For me, it’s the personification of sunshine… the life in a little girl’s eyes… it’s forever and always, my Hannah. And not even terminal cancer ever had a shot at taking her away.

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100 Ways To Practice Self-Care In Your Everyday Life, In 20 Minutes Or Less

Simple ways to start taking care of yourself.

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Life is overwhelming and distracting so it's easy to forget about yourself sometimes, but practicing small self-care acts is easy. Making time for yourself every day isn't selfish and is really good for your mental health. I think it's important for everyone to spend time doing things that make them happy and more calm, even if you only dedicate 20 minutes each day. Putting yourself first can lead to growth so many other aspects of your life.

Obviously, each person is allowed to practice self-care in their own unique way, but here are some ideas to get you started!

1. Do something new. 

2. Make a list of things you need to get done that week. 

3. Drink some hot tea. 

4. Go for a walk on a scenic trail.

5. Paint your nails.

6. Have a good laugh.

7. Buy yourself flowers.

8. Light a candle.

9. Do some tidying up.

10. Don't feel bad for saying 'no.'

11. Listen to music.

12. Slow down.

13. Drink a smoothie.

14. Run mindless errands.

15. Write down your goals for the week.

16. Talk to someone about the future.

17. Wake up early and get coffee. 

18. Take care of a plant. 

19. Take a bubble bath. 

20. Give yourself a compliment.

21. Give a stranger a compliment.

22. Watch a movie.

23. Put your phone down.

24. Declutter your personal space.

25. Go to bed early. 

26. Pray or meditate. 

27. Go for a drive. 

28. Make it a habit to stargaze. 

29. Read a book. 

30. Read poems. 

31. Sing loudly. 

32. Make a list of things you're grateful for. 

33. Drink a lot of water. 

34. Put on make-up for no reason.

35. Watch funny videos. 

36. Take a deep breath. 

37. Distance yourself from negativity. 

38. Unfollow people you don't care to follow on social media. 

39. Have a pajama day. 

40. Read an inspirational book. 

41. Call your parents/ loved ones. 

42. Donate old clothing. 

43. Dedicate a day out of the week to not eating meat. 

44. Do a fun craft or DIY project. 

45. Put on a face mask and relax. 

46. Do a small workout. 

47. Take a power nap. 

48. Listen to a podcast. 

49. Open a window. 

50. Open your curtains in the morning to let in natural light. 

51. Make your bed. 

52. Cook dinner instead of eating out. 

53. Play/ cuddle with an animal. 

54. At the end of the day, think of all the positive things that happened.

55. Moisturize. 

56. Buy a comforting blanket. 

57. Give someone a hug. 

58. Create a vision board. 

59. Have some alone time.

60. Enjoy the sun on your skin. 

61. Dance like nobody is watching.

62. Walk in the rain every once in a while. 

63. Drive with the windows down. 

64. Give someone a gift for no reason. 

65. Get a massage. 

66. Do something that gets your adrenaline running. 

67. Spend the day at the library or a book store. 

68. Organize your work space/ binders. 

69. Spend a weekend in. 

70. Recognize hard work and reward yourself. 

71. Sign up for a work out class. 

72. Eat lunch with a friend. 

73. Spend the day helping others. 

74. Get your hair done. 

75. Have a good cry. 

76. Use sticky notes. 

77. Color code your planner. 

78. Print out pictures and hang them up. 

79. Hang motivational quotes on your mirror and read them when you get ready. 

80. Do random acts of kindness. 

81. Buy fuzzy socks. 

82. Redecorate or rearrange furniture. 

83. Be present. 

84. Set a new years resolution. 

85. Make a bucket list. 

86. Stretch in the morning. 

87. Watch an interesting documentary. 

88. Make a music playlist.

89. Watch the sunrise or sunset. 

90. Explore somewhere new.

91. Be slow to respond to negativity. 

92. Have a game night with friends. 

93. Buy concert tickets. 

94. Have a nightly routine before bed. 

95. Eat your favorite dessert. 

96. Do something you've been putting off. 

97. Invest in essential oils. 

98. Manage your finances. 

99. Buy a new outfit. 

100. Make your own gratitude list. 

Try at least one of these every week and see how you feel! I guarantee you will notice a difference in the way you are living your life.

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Being Sick In College Is The Absolute Worst

College is hard both in health and in sickness...but especially in sickness.

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As a first semester freshman, the transition into college was hard, but there was one thing I was not prepared for at all: dealing with college when you're sick. Especially now, it's finals week, everyone is stressed out, tired, and very prone to illness. Despite my hardest efforts to stay healthy (drinking lots of water, taking vitamin C supplements, washing my hands, etc.) I still managed to catch what everyone's been throwing around, and it is the worst.

Not only do I feel incapable of going to class, since my whole body aches, I just feel like sleeping all day, which means none of the work I need to get done is getting done. This would've been difficult during any other week, but it being finals week, I have more papers and quizzes and tests to complete than ever. I'm sure many college students can relate when I say: I just wanna go hooooommmmeee!!!

On the bright side, I also have amazing friends who are helping me out. In college, since everybody's going through the same struggle, I find that there's a greater sense of family here. A friend from my English class sent me some more Emergen-C, and one of my BFFs did a CVS run for me. So although I miss my mom's homemade soup and warm hugs, I can take comfort in knowing that there are people here who care about me and want to help me get better.

So to all my fellow sickies, a few words of reassurance: We only have about a week left to go, we can totally do this!! A few exams and papers got nothin' on us, we're tough and smart and capable!! If you need to take a sick day, please do. Nothing is more important than your health and well being, not even grades. Take some medicine, sleep it off, and get stronger tomorrow! Make sure to drink lots of water, and try to eat something, even if it is just dining hall grilled cheese (Linkins Dining Center, I'm lookin' at you!) Persevere for a few more days, and we'll all be back home, chilling on the couch, and getting yelled at by our parents to do our laundry in no time.

Sending you all love and positive vibes for this finals season!

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