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.

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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I Woke up In The Middle Of The Night To Write About My Fears, They're Worse Than The Dark

One minute I'm thinking about what I want to do after college next thing I know I'm remembering the time I tried talking to a boy and choked on my spit.


It is one of those nights when I am tired, but for some reason, I can't seem to fall asleep. So, what do I do? I pull out my laptop, and I begin to write. Who knows where it will lead. It could lead to a killer article or something that does not make sense. I mean it is almost 2 A.M. In my mind, that's pretty late.

Anyways, let's do this thing.

Like many people, thoughts seem to pile up in my head at this time. It could be anything from a time when I was younger to embarrassing stories to wondering why I am "wasting" my time somewhere to thoughts about the future. All of these things come at me like a wildfire. One minute I'm thinking about what I want to do after college next thing I know I'm remembering the time I tried talking to a boy and choked on my spit.

The thought that is going through my mind as I write this is about the future. It's about the future of my fears. Let me explain. I have multiple fears. Some of my fears I can hide pretty well, others I am terrible at hiding. My fears may seem silly to some. While others might have the same fears. Shall we start?

1. My career

I don't know where to begin with this one. For as long as I can remember, my consistent dream job has been working in the world of sports, specifically hockey. A career in sports can be and is a challenging thing. The public eye is on you constantly. A poor trade choice? Fans are angry. Your team sucks? "Fans" are threatening to cheer for someone else if you can't get your sh*t together. You can be blamed for anything and everything. Whether you are the coach, general manager, owner, it does not matter. That's terrifying to me, but for some reason, I want to work for a team.

2. My family

Julie Fox

Failing with my family, whether that be the family I was born into or my future family, it terrifies me. I have watched families around me fall apart and I have seen how it has affected them. Relationships have fallen apart because of it. I have heard people talk about how much they hate one of their parents because of what happened. I don't want that.

3. Time

This could be a dumb fear. I'm not sure, but I fear time. With every minute that passes, I am just another minute closer to the end. With every day that passes that I am not accomplishing goals or dreams I have, I am losing precious time. It scares me to think of something horrible like "What if I die tomorrow because of something horrific?" or even worse, "What if I don't make it through today?" It's terrible, I know.

4. Forgetting precious memories

When I was younger, I had brain surgery. It is now much harder for me to remember things. I am truly terrified that I am going to forget things I will want to hold close to me forever, but I won't be able to. I am scared I'll forget about the little things that mean a lot. I'm afraid of forgetting about old memories that may disappear. I'm worried that I'll forget about something like my wedding day. That might seem out of this world, but it's a reality for me.

5. Saying "goodbye"

I hate saying bye. It is one of my least favorite things. Saying bye, especially to people I don't know when I'll see again, is a stab in the heart for me. I love my people so much. I love being around them. I love laughing with them. Thought of never having a hello with them again scares me beyond belief.

6. Leaving places that I love

Alright, let me start off by saying this- it takes a lot for me to love a place. It has to feel like home. It has to make me feel comfortable. It has to be a place I can go to and be myself. Thankfully, I have had and still have multiple places that are like that. I have also had places I could not wait to leave. I think that's why leaving places I love is so hard and something I fear so much. I am afraid I'll never get that place "back", for lack of a better term. I guess, I'm trying to say, it's like a piece of me is leaving as well.

These six things are just the start of my fears. Some of these might seem "dumb" or "ridiculous" to you, but for me, it's my life. These are the things that I think about the most. These are the things that feel like a pit in my stomach. These six things are parts of my life that mean a lot to me.

Cover Image Credit:

Emily Heinrichs

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10 people describe their first encounter with mental illness

Depression: The Deadly Phenomenon


Living in a world where mental illness has been the center of every movie script, song lyrics, and sitcom special has brought a lot of attention and awareness to the subject. Mental disorders affect almost every single person in this world, whether it is through direct contact, family member or friend.

However, many often forget that mental illness is not something to romanticize about. Popular teen websites such as Tumblr allow bloggers to post "inspiration" threads regarding eating disorders, depression and self-harm encouraging suicidal thoughts and fasting methods.

The purpose of this article is to bring awareness to the fact that mental conditions should not be romanticized and are not something to look up to.

1. Scott, 19

"When I was ten years old my cousin got drug induced schizophrenia which with time turned permanent. He was in his early 20's when it started. He was coming in and out of jail for constant drug use, and other minor offenses related to his drug addiction, which put a lot of stress on my family. We lost the boy we once knew."

2. Leyla, 20

"I was diagnosed with depression when I was twelve years old. I started going to one on one therapy as well as group therapy once a week. I also had weekly psychiatrist visits. The diagnosis affected my parents heavily; constant fighting over money and how to deal with my self-harm eventually drove them apart. They had different opinions and different ways of dealing with my issues. I continue to take antidepressants to this day."

3. Allan, 44

"When I was in my early twenties, my younger sister committed suicide leaving behind her eight-month-old daughter. Growing up in a small town completely closed off to the topic of mental illness and depression, her suicide was a shock to everyone including myself. My family and I hardly ever talk about what happened to this day."

4. Josephine, 19

"About a year ago I overdosed on cocaine and was sent into a PTSD anxiety state called derealization. Although this wasn't my first encounter with mental illness, it was the first time this phenomenon has affected me directly. I was unable to perform to the best of my ability; I saw myself changing and treating those around me differently. I am now eight months sober."

5. Mollie, 18

"My best friend's parents got a divorce when she was very young. Her mother fell into a deep depression once the divorce was finalized. I believe that this sparked her alcohol addiction. Growing up without a father and dealing with her mother's alcoholic tendencies caused my friend to develop depression and suicidal thoughts. She was never vocal or open about her problems. I believe she contemplated suicide very seriously at one point during her high school days. She is happy and healthy now."

6. Tara, 54

"Growing up in the 70s, mental illness wasn't as prevalent as it is today. Kids would play with toys, not razor blades. I am very thankful to not know the pain of watching my own children hurt themselves in such a way. However, I recently discovered that my youngest niece, who just graduated from middle school, has been self-harming along with some of her friends. I wish I could understand what makes a 14-year-old so sad that she has to cut up her own body."

7. Margot, 19

"My first encounter with mental illness was halfway through seventh grade. Two of my best friends were self-harming severely. Somewhere around that time, "finstas" were becoming a big deal, I remember logging in and seeing photos of cut up wrists posted by my own friends. I always wondered why someone would want to inflict more pain on themselves if they were already hurting; I came to the conclusion that it was the only pain in their life that they could control."

8. Garret, 21

"I was young, about eight or nine years old when my mother had her first manic episode. She was screaming at my father in the middle of the night, threatening to hurt herself, my younger brother and myself. I don't remember much except for the fact that my dad carried her outside of the house in hopes of not waking up my brother and I. They continued to fight in the middle of the street until sunrise, I believe she was hospitalized that night. I later found out that my mother was bipolar."

9. Kattie, 19

"I had difficulties eating for as long as I can remember. I was always worried about gaining an extra pound or letting my hip bones not be as prominent as they were in that particular moment. I refused to admit that I had an eating disorder until I lost the majority of my body weight. Years later, I am finally confident and appreciative of my body. I am now at a healthy weight thanks to the constant love and support of my family and friends."

10. Donna, 19

"On one side of my family there isn't really a trace of mental illness, however on the other side depression and anxiety are very prevalent. Throughout my whole life, or for as long as I can remember, I would often experience random bursts of stress and hyper behavior. I would get the feeling of butterflies in my stomach, however, it made me feel nauseous rather than that giddy excited feeling we often associate with butterflies. I always thought that it was normal to feel this way and that everyone feels a little anxious once in a while. Recently I finally acknowledged that this isn't just stress and that I actually have a mental illness. I am now able to treat my anxiety and live my life easier than I did before."

The experiences described above should not be seen or interpreted as beautiful. All of the participants know one another in real life, however, they are not aware of each other's partake in this article. This article is meant to highlight the fact that everyone is affected by mental illness in one way or another, even though most are not aware of others suffering around them.

Be kind to one another.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts call 1-800-273-8255.

*All names have been altered for the sake of anonymity.

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