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One Step at a Time This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, therewas a place where bald heads were accepted, wheelchairs were understoodand doctors were discussed. This land was One Step at a Time, a camp forcancer patients and survivors. This place was sweet and groovy andmagical and lit up the lives of everyone involved. It stilldoes.

I am a cancer survivor. Please do not concentrate on theword cancer when survivor is far more important. I was diagnosed withbone cancer when I was nine years old. After a year of experimentalchemotherapy and multiple surgeries to save my leg, I was declared to bein remission and still am today. I am one of the lucky ones; I amblessed. The summer after I went into remission I was further blessed bygoing to One Step at a Time.

I had become used to being treatedlike a monster, a one-in-a-million case who was as delicate as aneggshell. I certainly did not believe I would find people who understoodwhat I had been through. But I found that and more. I found love,respect, understanding and humor. I found fighters, dreamers andsurvivors. I found myself reflected in each of the children and them inme.

I have been attending their two-week summer camp for thepast seven years and a one week ski trip for four years. Recently I havebeen training to be a counselor. I have made lifelong friends withchildren and counselors, family and medical staff. My life was in blackand white before, but now it's in color, thanks to these friends andallies.

Inevitably, though, I return every year to findanother friend, fighter and dreamer has passed away. We comfort eachother with late night crying and talking sessions; we mourn our losstogether and, perhaps most painfully, know in our hearts that we couldbe gone next year, too.

When non-cancer patients visit One Stepfor the first time they are shocked to find us laughing, hugging,playing and singing. They are amazed that we are so brilliantly happywhile surrounded by such pain and suffering. The little ones are thebiggest surprise. They beg for piggyback rides and try to push you intothe lake. They play show and tell with their scars and stay up gigglinglong after the counselors are in bed. What many people don't understandis that we are happy because so much suffering surrounds us. We have alllearned early in life how exquisite it is. We know to love and laugh asoften as possible, and we do it as much for those who are gone as forthose who are still with us.

My life was altered forever when mydoctor said, "You have cancer." One Step at a Time altered it againby bringing love and laughter back into my life. Seeing courage on achild's face, seeing understanding in people's eyes when they see myscar and seeing myself grow stronger, braver and more compassionatebrings me back every year despite jobs, activities and school. Beingwith these beautiful people, these survivors, brings me back to whatmatters: life.



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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