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.
1428
views

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.

Popular Right Now

I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.
15244
views

It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Me Vs. Food: My Secret Battle With Eating Disorders

Shedding light on a silenced issue
153
views

Eating disorders around this country are spiraling out of control, but not all disorders are able to be seen. Sure, you may be able to tell that someone is underweight or someone is eating too much, but by looking at my own picture, would you be able to tell that I switch between restriction of food and purging? I don’t think so.

Since February of this year, 2018, I have had a silent battle with food. In the beginning, I would restrict myself from eating at all and would limit myself to no more than 500 calories per day. That battle persisted until everyone started noticing I wasn’t eating and was losing weight, so that’s when my battle with a different kind of disorder began.

I started eating more so that everyone around me would stop asking me questions and forcing me to eat when I clearly didn’t deserve that. Therefore, I began eating and engaging in purging activities to eliminate that food from my body. I still maintained my weight, but I stopped losing weight like I had been before, and that was my only goal.

No one ever knew about this secret battle of mine. I consistently told others that I just wasn’t feeling well, it was a side effect of a medication, or I’d just completely lie and tell them that I had eaten that day. The reality is that there is a reason why I began this battle with these difficult eating disorders.

At first, I struggled with eating because I believed I didn’t deserve food. I believed that the pains of hunger from not eating for days was what I had deserved for being who I am. I can’t lie and say that this still isn’t a partial reason why I still struggle with this today, but that reason has gone behind another very strong, loud one.

In the middle of April, as I started leaving the past behind me, I met a guy that I thought was going to make my life so much better. This was the truth until I started finding myself becoming an entirely different person because of him. The only real reason I even started seeing him was because I believed that that’s what I needed to keep other things off of my mind; a man.

The reality is that after only a couple of weeks, I started receiving messages from him telling me that I should only ever find myself in public if I looked “good” and that whenever I had time off work I should find myself only with or talking to him. Nothing else. He’s told me directly something that I will never be able to take off of my mind for as long as I live. He said to me:

“Look, I don’t feel like claiming you. Maybe if you just lost more weight, wore different clothes, or changed your body more, you’d be more attractive to me and then I’d claim you. But right now, you’re not good enough.”

When I got this message, it was a sure sign to me that I clearly needed to do something about my body. This is when I started engaging in purging behaviors, though I kept eating to ensure no one would ask me questions. In addition to this, I tried buying and wearing different clothes, engaging in other behaviors and even started acting very out of my normal.

My point in sharing this information that no one knows at this point, is that I know what it’s like to have to hide feelings and emotional abuse because of a fear of questions or judgements from others. More importantly, I understand what it’s like to have to hide entire disorders because of a fear that others will always have something to say about it. My belief now, though, is that even though this is a battle I still deal with daily, others can say all they want.

My reality now is that I still do speak to this guy and I still do struggle with these harmful eating habits. But what I can’t do anymore is try and pretend like it’s not real because of a fear. My hope is that someone reading this knows that there are other people out in the world with these issues, fighting the same battles.

During this battle, my self-worth is determined entirely by your acceptance of me.

Cover Image Credit: Brianna Gavin

Related Content

Facebook Comments