This I Believe

January 21, 2010
By , Wilmington, MA
I believe that you can get through anything with the help of those who you trust and care for.

I have lived in Wilmington, Massachusetts for as long as I can remember. I had a typical suburban childhood, and I have attended public schools since kindergarten. For a long time, the most traumatic experience I had ever had was when I took a vicious tumble over the handlebars of my bike at the age of five, which resulted in two black eyes along with multiple cuts and bruises. I thought that was the worst thing that could or would ever happen to me, until a few years later, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I can still remember the day it all started. I was in the sixth grade, only eleven years old. I took the bus home from school, and let myself into the house. My father was at work, my brother still at school, and my mom had gone to the doctors for her annual check-up. I kicked off my shoes, plopped myself down on the sofa with a plate of Oreos and a glass of milk, and turned on the television. My mom came home a few hours later. She seemed a little bit worried, so I asked her what was wrong. She told me that the doctors said that they needed to look at her mammogram results a little more, but it most likely wasn’t a big deal. For a brief moment, I thought to myself, oh my God, does Mom have cancer? But I quickly pushed the thought out of my head.

A few days later, the four of us were sitting at the dinner table when the phone rang. I read on the caller ID: “Mass General Hospital”. Knowing that my mom goes there for her doctor’s appointments, I handed the phone to her. She talked on the phone for a few minutes, expressionless. As soon as she hung up the phone, her eyes filled with tears. She opened her mouth to speak, but I already knew. I jumped up from the table so angrily that my chair flew backwards and hit the wall behind me. “No!” I yelled, and sprinted down the hall to my room, slamming the door. My mother and father followed me in there and sat down on my bed.

The next few hours were all a blur to me. I wouldn’t listen to a word my parents said. I ripped posters off of my walls in a rage. I was so angry! So many thoughts were running through my mind that I didn’t even realize that I had thrown my lamp to the ground until a piece of glass ricocheted off of the ground and hit my forearm. I cried out in pain, and when I looked down at the scarlet-colored blood dripping from my arm to the floor, I crumpled to the ground, sobbing. My parents crouched next to me, rubbing my back and telling me that it would be okay, and that we would get through this, but I wasn’t really listening to them, and what I was hearing, I wasn’t believing at all. I felt as though the world was falling down on top of me, and that everything was being ripped from under me. I felt helpless, and I thought to myself: if there is a God or whatever up there, then why is he hurting my mother?! Why?! I kept trying to wake myself up from the terrible nightmare I was having, but I never could.

The months that followed were very rough for my family and me. Mom had to go to chemotherapy treatments twice a week. When she came home, she would try to act happy and healthy in front of my brother and me, but we could detect the exhaustion in her voice, and when she excused herself to the bathroom, we could hear her gagging because the chemo made her so sick.

I became a loner at school. I didn’t even tell anyone what I was going through for a very long time because I didn’t want people to feel bad for me. I guess that deep down, I knew that I needed people to help me through this tough time, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit that something was wrong. I’ve never been one to “talk about my issues”. I put on a happy face, and no one has to know what is wrong. To me, crying became a sign of being weak, and I felt as though the only way I could keep my mom alive was to be strong.

Many of my friends thought that I was being “emo”, or trying to avoid them, and stopped inviting me to go places and hang out with them. Only three of my friends (my three best friends, might I add) knew me well enough to figure out that the problems I was having were not just petty drama, but something more serious.

My friend Erin invited me to sleep over her house on a Friday night after dance class, and when I got there, two of my other friends, Suzanne and Lauren, were also there. They sat me down between them all, and asked me what was wrong. At that moment, I felt safe. These people are here for me, I thought. They care, and they want to help. I broke down crying, and they sat with me, hugging me until I was ready to talk. When I pulled myself together, I told them everything; about my mom, her treatments, and even how angry I was at the world. Erin, Suzanne, and Lauren knew that I didn’t need to hear that “it would be okay”, and that I didn’t care if they “knew how I felt” because their parent or grandparent or aunt or whatever knew someone that had had cancer. They knew that I needed people to be there for me, and they were more than willing to do that. After I had told them everything, I began crying again, except this time, they cried with me. Before that night, I had felt alone, but after spending time with my three best friends, I finally realized that they genuinely cared about me, and wanted to help.

After her chemotherapy treatments, Mom started radiation, which wasn’t as bad. Although it gave her a nasty burn every time, at least she didn’t get sick from it. Sometimes, it was hard, but at least I had Erin, Lauren and Suzanne to help me and reassure me whenever I felt like I couldn’t bear to see my mother in pain anymore. After radiation, my mom was much better. She got tested again for cancer, and the results came up negative. The entire family was very happy, and things started getting much better from then on.

Although it was hard, and I never thought I’d get through it, I did. It was without a doubt the longest and most trying two years of my life, but when I look back on it, I think of it as a learning experience, and something that brought me closer to my family, and helped me realize who my true friends were.

I’ve changed a lot since then, as well. Even though I am still a very guarded person and I rarely make my true feelings known, I know that I have at least three people that understand me. I can confide in them, and they will always be there for me and for that, breast cancer, I thank you.

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