“It could kill him. It must be removed immediately.” This was the news doctors delivered to my parents before I was a year old.
My parents thought I was an average baby who happened to cry a lot. When they noticed me rubbing my right ear, they brought me to the doctor, expecting him to prescribe drops. Instead, he explained that I had a clostiatoma, a tumor in my right ear. I was immediately taken into surgery because if the tumor wasn’t removed, it could wrap around my brain and kill me.
After the surgery everything was fine, no tumor and no cancer. I just needed to go to the doctor every six months to get my ear cleaned out, which went on for years. Every day my ear produced a liquid that was a combination of ear wax, water, and anything else the infection produced. This didn’t smell too good and to avoid being made fun of in school, I kept a cotton ball in my ear all the time.
On the first day of third grade, I almost missed the bus so I forgot my sacred little fabric. At school, my ear began to leak. Because I was so excited about my new school, I wasn’t aware that the other kids had begun to notice the smell. Imagine all those kids making fun of me for something I couldn’t control. Obviously, third grade was not a fun year.
I considered the summer before fourth grade my second chance. I was free from all the jerks who had terrorized me and I had summer vacation to make new friends. Because everyone in my neighborhood was my brother’s age, a year older, they were all his friends. I tagged along, figuring they were my friends too. When I got into an argument with one, though, I realized that I had been badly mistaken. He turned to me and said, “Drip, drip, drip.” And it didn’t stop there - another kid told me to go hang out with my own friends instead of tagging along with my brother. I walked home crying.
After that, I kept to myself. As long as my ear was plugged, everything was fine but I wasn’t sure if I was ready to have close friends for fear of being hurt again. I wasn’t anti-social; I had plenty of friends, except they were school friends. We talked at lunch, and even though we said we’d hang out, nothing ever came of it. It continued like that until eighth grade when I became friends with my brother’s friends, only this time they were okay with my ear and actually understood that whatever was creating that liquid could have killed me.
Once I hit high school everything started falling into place. I was still friends with my brother’s friends, but I also met the people who are my good friends today.
The real test was when I found out that the clostiatoma had grown back and I would need another operation. I was out of school for a week and a half recovering, and I was nervous when I returned. Everywhere I went, kids wanted to know where I had been and why my ear was sticking out. When I finally got to my favorite class, I was comforted by my friends who told me that things hadn’t been the same without me, and no one mentioned anything about my ear. This was the test that proved they were my true best friends.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.