I Am Not Cancer

July 27, 2011
People tell me, “You’re an amazing person,” not out of respect, but because they think I need the compliment, because I have cancer. They say, “You are so strong,” while they avert their gaze from my shriveled body, lying beneath the crisp, white hospital sheets. They say these things and they don’t even know why, only that it’s ‘expected’ of them, not by me, but by society.

I am amazing. I am strong. But not because of my illness.

True, cancer made me fight harder for every breath, and made every moment without pain a blessing, but I was strong before cancer, and I will be strong long after cancer has departed from me.

Everyone talks to me like I am cancer. Like I’m only a host for the disease within me. But I say, that I am more than sick. I am me. I have a personality and a life, beyond these hospice rooms. I am more than the toxins of cancer, and more than the artificial poison they flood me with everyday.

I am a person, not a disease, so judge me as such. Don’t look for the part of me that is dying, but instead notice the joy I have for living. See my talent for weaving stories, and for lightening the mood with a perfectly aimed joke, or a snarky witty bit of sarcasm. Look at my passion for drawing. Every piece of my art shows another part of me, another depth and insight into who I am. I am not just some girl you can visit in the hospital for thirty minutes, to rack up volunteer hours, walk away from, and write off as another cancer victim. No, I am too good for that.

Stop looking at me like I am an invalid! I am not a weakling. I am a soldier. The only difference I have from any other warrior, is my foe is trying to conquer me from the inside out, instead of on a battle field. I cannot win this fight alone. Just like any other soldier, I need my rifle men, and my fighter pilots. I need your support, not your pity.

Help me to grow and live, not to stunt or die. Cancer is already doing that, and it doesn’t need anymore encouragement, but I do. Instead of patronizing me, talk to me, not as a patient or a dying girl, but as a friend. I don’t need your diagnoses. I already have enough doctors making those. I need your ability to talk to me like any other human being. I accept that I am neither normal, nor average. I am special, but not because I have cancer.

Treat me as you would anyone else. Don’t work extra hard to make me smile or to get a laugh out of me, or if you do, simply do it because we are friends, not because you feel like you have to. I will smile when I want to, and I will laugh when the joke is funny.

You shouldn’t feel awkward, or like I’m any different than I was before. Cancer didn’t change me, only how my body functions. My opinions and my character haven’t altered. Cancer does not make me who I am. Don’t treat me like I’m already dead, because I’m not, and I intend to stay that way. Remember me, not my disease.

For beneath the purple bruised eyelids and ghostly pale skin, I am your friend, the neighbor girl, and the daughter. Behind the gaunt and shrunken exterior, I am the sarcastic and very strange child who made you laugh. Beyond the IVs and chemo therapy, I am me. I am still Amelia. I am not cancer.

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This article has 24 comments. Post your own now!

the secret of life said...
Oct. 7, 2014 at 5:11 pm
TheEpic95 said...
Mar. 21, 2013 at 10:05 pm
I really dont know what to say. This is beautiful. How can someone critque something like this?
SecretFlame replied...
Mar. 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm
Thank you :) :) :)
LinaAThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm
To be able to write from that perspective and make it believable, shows you're talented. My best friend's sister died of cancer last year, and so i commend you for writing such a thought-provoking piece.
SecretFlame replied...
Aug. 12, 2012 at 4:25 pm
thank you so much 
Love.Hate.Passion. said...
Oct. 7, 2011 at 11:31 pm

I commented on this piece in a forum thread , before it was published. One fact still stands true , this is a beautiful , poignant , and honestly raw story. Great , wonderful , amazing piece.

5 stars !

SecretFlame replied...
Oct. 8, 2011 at 11:32 pm
rage_against_the_machine said...
Sept. 16, 2011 at 7:38 pm
I really like this, it is so beautiful! I believe I saw this first in a contest we were in: the war prompt, am I correct? Anyway, the writing and storyline intrigued me then, and now as well. You have a gift, and the emotion of strength in this is amazing.
Garnet77 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 7, 2011 at 3:06 am
Wow! Amazing! I love the determination of the character's voice that runs through the entire piece. I think your message is so true and everyone should know this. Amazing piece of work (again). :)
shadowrider replied...
Sept. 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm
HollerGirl26 said...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 8:51 am
THIS IS BREATH-TAKING <33!! My mother works with people with cancer and this made me realize how they must feel...spectacular job..I am really impressed <3
shadowrider replied...
Sept. 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm
RhythmAndRhyme said...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 5:05 am

(Sorry this took so long. :P) In case you didn't know: I review with the "Stars and Wishes" method. Stars are things I liked, while Wishes are things changeable, out of place, confusing, etc...anyway, without further ado:

Stars: The strength of the narrator really comes through in the piece. I was both taken aback (in a good way) and pulled in by her resilience and the power in the voice.

I loved how you didn't include a backstory; it would make one wonder about her life before,... (more »)

shadowrider replied...
Sept. 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm
Thank you for the wonderful feedback! It's REALLY appreciated! 
RhythmAndRhyme replied...
Sept. 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm
Love to help! :3 You did a great job on this piece.
ItsAshMal This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 31, 2011 at 10:23 am
Please submit this to things. Magazines, newspapers, whatever. I know you didn't specifically say to look at this one, but the title just called to me. Awesome work. I love the idea, the crisp vocab, and the resilliance of the narrator. This is my favorite piece of yours. Five stars.
shadowrider replied...
Aug. 31, 2011 at 12:13 pm
Thank you so much! This is one of my favorite pieces too!
IamtheshyStargirl said...
Aug. 22, 2011 at 5:11 pm
Yes, this article has a very strong voice. It seemed slightly dry, it was mostly words, not much back story or description, but I think it is better that way, that is the way it is supposed to be. 
BreeTayler This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 17, 2011 at 9:55 pm

Amazing.. The character has such a strong voice. I could almost hear her stuffing the words down my throat... In a good way, beleive me.

It's crazy how fate works, isn't it? My cousin, who died of cancer years ago (he always told me to use the word "die" rather than "pass away" or "all that other bs" ... He told me that I was his favorite cousin. Because I treated him like I would a cousin rather than a patient. You can see how this article would mean a lot to me... So thank you. ... (more »)

shadowrider replied...
Aug. 17, 2011 at 9:59 pm
I am so happy you liked this! Good for your cousin.
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