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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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black and white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble; and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time, until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling; whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die," or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you, you are not alone.

If you're thinking about hurting yourself please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit suicidepreventionhotline.org to live chat with someone. Help it out there and you are not alone.


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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I Joined WW Freestyle And Here Are 10 Ways It's Positively Affected My Life

Healthy Habits = Happy Tummy

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I know its a stereotypical New Years resolution, but this year I took myself seriously and decided to join WW Freestyle. It is a great program and 100% worth the price, which ranges from $3-$15/month. My parents and older sister have been doing it for a few years now so I decided to hop on the weight loss train.

It's probably the best decision I have made this year. It's not even the end of January but I feel more confident than ever, but that's not all!

Here are ten things WW Freestyle has done for me...

1. I eat MORE than I did before!

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And not just fruits and veggies!

Before WW, I was eating two meals a day, sometimes one. I thought that would help me lose weight, but if anything I gained. It was hard and I tried every "one special trick" in the book, but nothing worked.

Now I get X amount of daily points and I find someday's I'm looking for more food to use up all my points (which is very important). Not only do I get daily points, I get BONUS/weekly points that have to be used by the end of the week, so if I want to indulge or splurge, I can! Sweet treats here I come!

2. I look in the mirror with confidence!

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I only joined two weeks ago and I already feel more confident and beautiful, and I haven't even lost much weight yet! Just the idea that I am on my way to a healthier body inside and out gives me a boast of much needed self-confidence.

3. Its teaching me healthy habits.

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Before choosing to just swing by Starbucks or McDonalds I now think, "do I have points for that?" and since I can't check my phone while driving, I then decide it'd be better to just go home and eat a hearty and healthy dinner.

And hey! If I do have the points you can best bet I'll be indulging in some chicken nuggets and fries!

4. I've become part of a new, amazing community

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With the 6-month package I purchased, I get to attend weekly meetings! They are such a great support group and the leader of the group is amazing! It's a no judgement zone and even if you gained weight, its okay to share because its a learning and growing experience.

The environment of the meetings is so welcoming. And even if you just get the digital package, there is an online community as well that you can be a part of.

Everyone there is on the same or similar journey as you and the success stories keep you going because that could be you!

5. It's inspired me to exercise more!

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I used to barely ever exercise. I sat around all day on my computer procrastinating exercise. But now! I'm back in the pool swimming laps and attending a free water aerobics class up at Eastern!

I swam for 6 years of my life and its great to be back in the water! It's bringing back my lung capacity which has significantly dropped over the years of no exercise and I can feel the difference in my breathing.

You should never diet alone! Always, always get some sort of exercise at least 3 times a week. The weight comes off faster and you feel so much better.

(My article about being on the swim team)

6. I walk a little taller

And its not just the new confidence! Losing weight makes for a better posture as well! As a girl with a weak lower back, WW Freestyle has helped me so much already.

7. I feel healthier

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I can breathe easier, I'm lighter on my feet, and that's just for a start! I used to have really bad stomach/digestive issues but they haven't bothered me in the two weeks I've been a part of WW Freestyle.

Knock on wood, but I hope that they'll stop for good. Healthy habits = Happy Tummy.

8. I've started being more open to dating again

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Four years of low self-esteem and not liking who I see in the mirror is rough. With this new confidence, I joined a few dating websites to get myself out there again and it's going great!

Look out world! Here I come!

9. I'm discovering new foods I've never had before!

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Another great resource that comes with the WW Freestyle app is unlimited healthy recipes! I'm trying new foods for low points and feeling healthy and satisfied.

10. Its given me so much more energy!

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If only two weeks with the program has given me this much energy I can't wait to reach my goal!

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