It Happened to Me This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Sigh. Here I am again, in the waiting room of the Children's Cancer Clinic. Pondering the past five years of endless check-ups, there is only one way to describe them: terrifying.

A few months after I turned ten I came down with what everyone thought was the flu. It was Valentine's Day, and my father bought me a delicious box of chocolates. I was a chubby little girl and loved chocolate, but on that particular day, I didn't eat any. I was sick for a week. My parents brought me to the doctor twice, and he said it was the flu.

Winter vacation ended but my parents thought I was still too sick to go back to school. But I loved school and felt better, and I missed my friends. So, I went, but my teacher thought I looked very pale and sent me to the nurse. I could never have guessed that walking down that hallway was just the start of a very bumpy road. Nurse Bev looked at me with concern and called my mother. She said that I must go see my pediatrician right away, and my mother should demand that they test my blood.

I had already been to the doctor twice, so what was one more time? They took my blood as soon as I got there and not too long after, three doctors crowded around my mother and me.

"Mrs. Alves, your daughter must go to the hospital," they said.

The next thing I knew, my father, mother and I were walking into the medical center. My legs collapsed the moment I walked in because of the small amount of blood in my system. They put me in a wheelchair and I went to Intensive Care.

As naive as this sounds, I thought I would be home the next morning. Getting blood transfusions was all I thought I needed. Boy, was I wrong. I was hooked up to machines and monitors that would not stop beeping, wires that would not let me move, and tubes that made sure I was still alive. After being poked and pinched all day long, I finally went into a dreamless sleep.

The next day was a blur. I recall hearing relatives crying and trying to understand that I had acute lymphatic leukemia. All I remember hearing were the ventilators and the stillness of everyone around me.

I never saw my father or my sister cry, but looking into their eyes, I could see they were torn apart. My dad just stood there as if everything were okay, and my sister put on her happy face. She made me laugh, read to me, brought me candy, watched movies with me, and talked to me. I knew something was going on, but I didn't dare ask. I did not want to know.

Surgery was performed so that I would have a port through which I would receive treatment. It was a metal/rubber circle near my heart. I received many blood transfusions and went through spinal taps, x-rays, bone marrow exams and chemotherapy. No one realized the seriousness of my illness, especially not me, until two months into my treatment. Then the doctors told my parents that there was nothing else they could do. It was just a matter of time before I died.

Easter Sunday came, and my father and sister went to Mass. All people had been doing lately was praying for me. You always hear about miracles - the power of faith and hope - and I cannot argue with that after hearing my mother crying hysterically on the phone, telling my father that my enlarged liver was back to normal. There was no scientific explanation.

For me, losing my hair was not a big deal at all. My mother was always yelling at me to wear a hat, but I would take it off. What did I care? All my friends and family knew why I was bald, and if people wanted to stare, that was their problem. My hospital room looked like a gift shop and I had more guests daily than all the other patients put together. Chemo was constantly shot into me, and I was popping pills like they were candy. One time, I was given too much chemo and the inside of my body was burned; I was in the hospital for two weeks on morphine and liquid food. I missed fourth grade, and the first few weeks of fifth grade.

From there, I slowly recovered. No one could figure out why, and some thought it was a true miracle. I was still in and out of the hospital a lot, but my color was coming back, I was gaining weight, my hair was growing, and I could finally sleep in my own bed. That was the best medicine I could have. My friends and family were there during the whole thing, and people I never even thought knew me were so loving. I realized who my true friends were; bad situations can bring out the best (and worst) in people.

Cancer is a funny word. It is the life-threatening

disease we all know about, but we take it to mean something that happens to someone else, but it happened to me.

There is more to life than homework and soccer games. I have learned to live life day by day, and not worry about the future. Every day you learn something new, and it is what you do that day that counts.

I know that I will be fine. I had my family and friends to help me through it all. Needles, pills, hospitals, hair, chemotherapy, doctors, fear, loneliness - these things run through my mind a hundred times a day. I will make it through this just like others have. It has been two years since I have been cured, and almost five years since it all started. Every other month I have to get my blood checked, but that is the least of my worries. I made it through this, so nothing can knock me down.

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






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GirlTerryFox52 said...
Jan. 4, 2009 at 1:04 am
Hey, I had cancer too, bone cancer in both legs. I had to get them amputated, and now I have prosthetics. I did chemo before that, though, and it was the worst experience I've ever had. Stay strong, girl, and don't let anything get you down.

- Estelle (aka The Girl Terry Fox)
 
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