Inner Strength This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.

March 13, 2008
Three months into senior year I was maintaining a 4.0 GPA, applying to colleges, and enjoying my last year at home. My relatively normal life was disrupted when I went to my doctor because of back pain and found out I had a cancerous tumor that occupied 70 percent of my chest.

After being diagnosed with Hod­gkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system, I was immediately hurled into a world of medical jargon, daily hospital visits, and aggressive chemotherapy. I no longer went to school, socialized with friends, or did anything a typical 17-year-old would do. As my treatments progressed, I ­became more accustomed to the harsh side effects and started home tutoring and hanging out with friends a bit. My tumor has shrunk by over 60 percent, and my doctors predict that my treatments should be over in time for me to graduate with my class and attend college in the fall.

Spending my senior year hooked up to an IV has been no fun, but I have learned a lot about myself and others. I have found a burning strength that ignites my veins and mitigates the toxic effect of the helpful poison that flows through them. This is the strength I summon when I don’t want to scare my family and friends by letting them know just how sick I feel and how close I am to breaking down.

The fact that I cry at night and feel sorry for myself sometimes does not detract from my strength but instead fuels it, for I am honest with myself and true to my emotions. I am strong enough to smile and stay mostly positive, but not too stoic to sob on my mom’s chest. I am not strong enough to walk up a flight of steps without resting afterward, but I know that when I am healed, my great inner strength will be powerful enough to overcome any physical weaknesses I may face.

Another realization I have had is that bald can be beautiful; it is a sign that chemotherapy is working and I am getting better. I have learned that no matter how independent I thought I was, it’s wonderful to get a back massage or an ice cream delivery from a friend. I have learned to swallow my pride and have my mom bathe me and my dad help me to the bathroom when I am too weak. My dignity was really shot when two cops and three paramedics came to my house to find me passed out naked on the floor. Pride is overrated anyway!

Since my time is split between ­sitting in a hospital chair getting chemotherapy, and sitting in my bed writing, I have had time not only to ­reflect on my situation but also to ­contemplate the actions of other people. I have learned that some people’s hearts are just too full of love to contain it all, so it is forced to spill over to others who need to feel that glowing warmth. I am eternally grateful for the love given to me by these beautiful people.

I have also realized that some people are not strong enough to overcome their fears and reach out with support. I guess those who are too scared to ­approach me do not realize how terrified I am a lot of the time.

Some just don’t get it. They are the ones who see me on a good day, complete with wig and makeup, and question how sick I am or wonder why I can’t ­return to school. I force myself to accept their shortcomings, because I wonder if I’d really get it had our roles been reversed.

Then there is the saddest group of all: people who claim to care but just not enough to extract themselves from their own important world and enter mine even for a while. While I can ­accept the flaws and beauty marks of others, I cannot understand or forgive those whose hearts do not runneth over.

Missing the majority of my last year of high school did not leave me completely brain-dead. Throughout my journey, I have examined metaphysics, sociology, psychology, and abstract concepts like courage, acceptance, love, loneliness, and hope. Not to mention my newfound medical knowledge rivals the top oncologists … well, maybe that’s a stretch.

The most important lesson I have learned is that “impossible” means nothing. Since I met Robin, a martial artist who comes to the hospital, I have learned that the mind is capable of amazing feats. Each session I spend with him, I shed a bit of my skepticism and analytical disposition. I ­finally had faith in Robin’s teachings after he showed me the “unbendable arm” exercise. When I placed my arm on his shoulder and flexed as hard as I could, he could easily bend it. How­ever, when I rested my arm on his shoulder and channeled my mental ­energies, Robin was unable to bend my arm.

My mind is perspicacious enough to see the glittering light at the end of the tunnel, despite the pill bottles and IV bags that litter the way. Each day the tunnel becomes a little less cluttered and a bit brighter, and I know that one day I will reach the beautiful light that will envelop me in warmth and celebration. I will bask in its radiance with renewed spirit, revived strength, and the desire to make a difference.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the December 2008 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.

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PaigeLouisaTaylor said...
Jul. 20, 2012 at 10:53 am
That was amazing! I missed a lot of my freshman year of HS due to absence for three month for leg and foot surgery. That is so awesome that you stayed strong. Continue to do so. What colleges are you applying to? What do you want to major in?
lovepeace said...
Dec. 13, 2011 at 10:06 pm
You are amazing, thank you for writing :)
B-star7 said...
Feb. 8, 2011 at 2:40 pm
Wow. Amazing story. I went through something simular.. But, not cancer. I wrote a lot too. But, was never able to swallow my pride. You are amazing!! :D 
deafening_silence said...
Jan. 17, 2011 at 8:23 pm
I cried after reading this. This is so inspiring. Best wishes in everything you do, you are an amazing writer c:
giggles33361 said...
Jan. 12, 2011 at 7:35 am
Great story, and really touching, but honestly te beginning seemed a bit rushed
reenay_95 said...
Dec. 26, 2010 at 5:14 pm
I love your positivity (:
Ash_xo said...
Aug. 16, 2010 at 11:16 am

touching story :]

best wishes!

This*Lit*Is*Bananas This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 17, 2009 at 4:52 pm
Wow, that was beautiful. I admire you so much! It must have been so hard to make it through all that, but you swallowed your pride and pushed forward and found a way to make it through despite obstacles. Wonderful article, and best wishes! <3
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