I didn’t live a normal childhood. My experiences growing up taught me that the most important things in life are to appreciate what’s given to you and give back to those that gave to you.
At the age of eight, I was diagnosed with cancer. I underwent surgery to have my kidney removed and shortly after started chemotherapy. I went to the Maine Children’s Cancer Program(MCCP) in Scarborough every week to get treatment. This was a very scary experience, especially being just eight years old.
Of course I had the support of my family and friends but I hardly knew what was going on with my own body. I went to this building and was told they were making me better but after they gave me the medicine I knew what the following week held did not make me feel better…
Anyways, the MCCP has these boxes with prizes. There is a box for little kids and a box for teens. After treatment, each patient is able to go get a prize from the box for doing well. I always passed on picking something out because I told myself the other kids need it more. I’ve always just had this mindset that someone is always experiencing something worse than me so I shouldn’t take things for granted. I was raised that when someone needs help, you help them. This was my idea of helping them. Of course I was just a kid so this was pretty much all I could do. I knew that I was going through similar things to the other patients but there was still always that thought. What if another kid is in more pain than me or what if they are not going to live? They would appreciate this gift way more than I would. These thoughts are what prevented me from picking something out no matter how much my nurses tried to get me to. I always said, “Save it for the other kids.”
It’s been almost six years since I finished my last chemo treatment. I still have to go to check ups with my doctor every year. My mom was the one to give me the idea of filling the prize boxes. We had been trying to come up with ideas to give back to the cancer center for a long time. They had done so much for me and we knew there is nothing that could fully repay them but we still tried. Even today we still try. We always noticed that the boxes didn’t have many prizes. My mother and I made a decision to buy prizes to fill the boxes every year around Christmas time. Starting at the age of nine, I used my own money to buy prizes to fill the boxes.
If we don’t give back to those who helped us then we just take their help for granted. Something doesn’t feel right to me when I don’t give back. Growing up the way I did, gives you a different view on life. Appreciating what was given to you is important. Without those doctors and nurses, I wouldn’t be alive today. If I can’t repay them, the least I could do is make sure the other kids are as happy as I was. I can talk from personal experience, spending time at the doctors and hospitals all the time isn’t fun. Constantly being sick and in pain isn’t fun. You would be surprised as to how much a little prize could mean to those kids. They rarely have time to play and they have to be super cautious when doing so. A bottle of nail polish could make a teen girl feel pretty again. A toy football could make a little boy feel like a normal kid again. That’s all they want. They don’t want expensive gifts or anything like that. They just want to forget what they’re going through and feel normal again.
My mother and I agreed that we would continue this our entire lives and make it a tradition to continue buying things for the boxes. As long as I know I could be making one kid happy, then that’s what makes me happy.