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Fighting the Battle
At the age of thirteen I started suffering from migraines. I went back and forth to the doctor numerous times; telling him what was going on with me. Despite what my parents or I told him he never ran tests, just kept giving me medicine. I remember they didn’t have a real name; they were just called barbiturate, aspirin caffeine caps. Sometimes the pills would work, but only when my headache was very mild. Most of the time my headaches got so bad that I couldn’t even get out of bed in the morning because I thought my head would explode. Finally after almost a year of this my parents became fed up with this and took me to a new doctor; Dr. Shay. When I went in and showed him my pills he told me that I shouldn’t have ever been prescribed that because I was so young. So he took me off of them and told me he wanted to run tests and take blood. I got tested for so many different things I lost track. Except for one, the one test that would forever change my life. The M.R.I.
When the test results came back Dr. Shay had a saddened look on his face, I looked at him confounded as he murmured the words…
“ I’m so sorry Maria, but you have cancer.”
Cancer. The word ran through my mind over and over like a bad song that you can’t get out of your head. I felt like my whole world had just been flipped upside down, and I no longer knew which way was up. I immediately burst into tears, as did my mom, but not my dad he tried to act strong but, I could tell he was fighting the tears back. A million emotions were running though my body; fear, sadness, confusion. But there was one that stuck out like a sore thumb. Hatred. I hated my cancer, I hated myself for not knowing I had it, and I hated my doctor. I was so young that I thought since he ran the tests and told me what was wrong, that it was his fault. That he was the reason I had cancer.
After I calmed down my doctor told me what the cancer is.
“ The tumor grew overpowering the healthy cells, taking the space, blood, and nutrients from them. As it grew in size it became a cancerous mass in the brain. The good news is that it is curable.” Dr. Shay explains.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was extremely overwhelmed when he told me I could be cured, but I was still really scared because I didn’t know what would happen next. I soon found out that the answer to that was chemotherapy. Eight weeks of it to be exact. I didn’t go to school while I was going through treatment, I was too weak. I couldn’t eat much because it was so hard to keep anything down. Just when I thought my life couldn’t possibly get worse, the hair loss began. Here I am, now fourteen years old and I have no hair. I was so disgusted with my appearance that I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. There were days where I wouldn’t even leave my room.
Mom would call up the stairs,
“ Maria, honey I know it’s hard but you should come out of your room. It will make you feel better.”
I replied with “ No mom. You don’t know how hard it is, you have no idea, and no I’m not coming out of my room because it wont make me feel better. It will make me feel worse!” And I slammed my door shut.
Yeah, I know I was kind of harsh. I know she was just trying to help, but sometimes I just wanted to be alone and she didn’t understand that, and she never will. But that night, I could hear her at night sobbing in her bedroom. My father talking sweetly telling her everything will be okay. I wanted to go in and tell her the exact same thing, I wanted to show her I was better. But I couldn’t because I had no clue if everything was going to be okay. From that day on I tried to be strong for my mom, never once did I show her how much I was really hurting. That was for me to know and for her never to find out.
About a week after all of that I went to the doctor for another M.R.I. The chemo was working, my tumor shrank my almost 80%! A wave of relief came over me, and I could tell my parents were feeling the exact same way. The good news was followed my some less than exiting news.
“ Maria, the chemo cannot completely get rid of the mass. I’m afraid we are going to have to perform surgery to remove the rest.” Explains Dr. Shay.
At that point I didn’t even care. I had nothing to lose. I finally felt like my life was starting to turn around. There was that worry in the back of my mind; what if I never come out of the anesthetic? What if I never have a chance to go on a first date, have my first kiss, go to prom, graduate, go to college and get a career, and get married and have a family?
My surgery was scheduled for a week later. One minute I was laying in the surgery room, and the next I was being woken up by a nurse telling me that the surgery was successful and that my tumor was gone. I can’t even begin to explain how I felt. How happy I was that I knew I was going to be okay. If you ask girls what the happiest day of their life was most will say their wedding day. Not me, this was mine. The day I knew my cancer was a thing in the past.
I began to eat normally again and my energy was back. I began my sophomore year in high school at the age of fifteen. I had my first date, my first kiss, and my first real boyfriend (that I’m still with), and I went to prom. I graduated with honors at the top of my class. I even stopped wearing my wigs when my hair was long enough to put in a faux hawk.
I am now 19 and I’m attending Princeton. I have been in remission for six years. I still go to the doctor every six months or so to make sure nothing is coming back. I really consider one of the luckiest people I know, for fighting this cancer at a young age and for getting back up on my feet and becoming so successful. One thing I’ve learned on my journey is to never give up on yourself, and always keep fighting the battle.