Strong Forevermore

October 2, 2009
By , Manhattan, KS
I never really realized how much the support of my family, friends and leaders had helped and guided me during my high school years. I learned the importance of their love and support early in my freshman year of college at Brigham Young University.


The ’97 Corolla came to a halt in front of a welcoming building. My apartment building. I drew in a deep shaky breath and let it out slowly, then turned to look at my best friend Ella. We both burst into laughter, which ended up in tears, temporarily relieving our stress of becoming college students, leaving our families and now living on our own.


We dried our eyes and stepped out of the vehicle, surveying our new home. A gust of warm August air swept through my long golden locks, today in loose curls.


Ella and I stood there for a while, stunned. A rush of clean wind tumbled through our hair and clothes.


It seemed surreal. The majestic mountains towering over us, the deep azure sky, the perfectly shaped clouds floating along carelessly. It felt as if nothing could shatter this picture, this feeling, as if you are the only one alive, as if nothing could go wrong.


There was no possible way to be prepared for what shattered this dream. The first month of my college life was almost at an end, and it had been wonderful. I loved my apartment, roommates, teachers, and my classes. I was doing well on the cross- country team, and had even made BYU’s top choir.

I was proud. Proud I was ahead; proud I was strong; proud I was in control.


And then, suddenly, everything fell, with one sentence from one doctor, just as an avalanche falls with one loud noise. That one noise that interrupts the silence sends all that snow crashing down, and nothing is ever again quite the same. So it was with my life.


I was in the doctor’s office, coming out of a CAT scan. I had had an occasional sharp pain, in my back. I hadn’t thought about it too much until the day before, when the pain felt like a spear being plunged into my back.


The doctor looked concerned; he was not smiling; yet there was a hint of the same bubbly person I had met a mere fifteen minutes before.

He looked at the results from my CAT scan, and all colour drained from his face. That’s when my heart began to pound in my chest, the rhythm accelerating with every second that the doctor stared at that image. My hands grew icy cold.

The doctor’s dark, chocolate brown eyes met my golden ones, now filled with trepidation. “Um…” he began, failing to make it seem as though nothing were wrong,
“You have cancer.”


The silence that followed thundered in my ears. I knew it was false. It had to be! I had been doing so well! I was succeeding!

However, as the doctor stared at me, searched me, really, with his piercing, dark eyes, I knew it was true, I could tell this was no joke, nothing to make me laugh. Then I realized; I was no longer in control.


I suddenly felt inadequate for this situation, for my responsibilities. I yearned for the warmth and comfort of my parents and other family members. My thoughts turned to a scripture I had read that morning in my religion class.


“ …Whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles and their afflictions.”


At that moment, I was relieved. Everything was going to be okay. I had parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles and friends. They would support me. I would then have the power to overcome. Together we would have the power to overcome.


So, with this newly found determination, I began the battle. The months passed, and still the vigorous war raged within me, each side resolved to conquer the other. I was winning. My family and I were winning.


Or so I thought. I began to notice my downfall when I realized lines of worry and concern were being etched into my doctor’s aging face.


I couldn’t figure it out. It seemed that when I reached a high point in life, every time I found myself on top, some horrific thing would drag me back down, where I would then have to start a new battle to fight my way to the top.


The doctor sat me down in his office one cold, unwelcoming winter day. He cleared his throat, searching, searching for the words; the words to tell me the unpleasant news. He frowned slightly as he shuffled through my folder and occasionally shook his head slightly. I was becoming tense just watching him.


Chills ran down my spine as my doctor sat at the edge of his oak desk, looked me straight in the face and calmly began to say, “Ava, within this past month, we’ve noticed something developing near the place your last tumor was. Uh…Ava, you’ve got another tumor, and I don’t know how treatable this one is just quite yet. It may even be fatal.”


When those last words escaped his mouth, I wanted to grab them and shove them back down his throat. I loathed looking at that face, that face that wished so dearly to help me, to comfort me. I hardened my heart on the spot and refused to be comforted. I would not die. I was too strong. Nothing could overthrow me now. Not even this tumor. Not even death.


I realized I was being prideful, but I didn’t want to admit it. I didn’t want to admit that I was losing the race again. I definitely did not realize right then how strong my first tumor had made me, and how strong I could become from this second tumor. I was looking only at the present, not even thinking about my past or future.


I left that meeting with my doctor in low spirits. I stepped out of the brick building to find myself in the midst of swirling white flakes. They had no cares, no worries. They were free. I wanted to be free. Oh, to be released from this prison in life, this vicious enemy that had me by my throat. As I stood there on the icy step of the doctor’s office, I suddenly felt overwhelmed. I had been running away from the realities of life, and they had caught up with me. I could no longer run.


I collapsed on the ice-covered stair and burst into tears. They froze as they hit my cheeks; the bitter Utah winter wind nipped my ears and nose, and snowflakes landed gently on my shoulders.


With a feeling of guilt, I became conscious of how ungrateful I had been. I drew in a deep breath and exhaled quickly. Who was I to quit, when my family and friends had been right there with me the whole way? I decided there that I would not give up. My cancer could pull out its biggest guns, but I would never, never stop fighting. I knew that I would need the support of my close ones more than ever, but I would do my part. I knew with a surety that through prayer and the love of my family, I could come through the winner. Again.


The winter had been a long and hard one. Treatment, snow, ice and pain were only a few contributors to my misery. Worn out, I stumbled up the now familiar steps of the foreboding doctors office. I noticed little buds on the trees, the new life pushing their way through the last few weeks of the harsh winter.


“I can’t believe this. I just cannot believe this.” My doctor’s eyes were wide in surprise; a smile was spreading across his face. He began to chuckle, and then the chuckle turned in to bursts of joyous laughter.


I stared, my eyes wide in confusion. I had not heard laughter in this office since my first visit seven months earlier, when we had been joking as we walked down the hallway, not knowing what vast conflict was looming before us.


“Ava, I don’t understand how this happened, but… there is no trace of your cancer. Not one!” He beamed at me as the words he had just conveyed to me registered within my exhausted brain.


I too began to laugh. Never before had I felt so free in my life. I was free. Free! No more did cancer grasp my life within its clutches. I had won. I had conquered. I never will be able to express my feelings at that moment. I felt as if I could fly. High beyond those majestic mountains, beyond those perfect white clouds, beyond that deep blue sky.


It was that day that I really understood how vital the support of my family was. They had been there with answers to my questions. They had cheered me on. They had loved me. Without them, never would I have been able to make it through that chapter of life. Now, I knew I could be strong forevermore.





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