Cancer: Another Perspective
Written By: Nihithasri Anepally
As the footsteps came closer, the child’s heart started to thump louder. Each step was eating her soul away, not knowing that this would quite literally happen. Her heartbeat was in her head now as the doctor came in with his entourage of nurses, who all had a pitiful look. She looked to her right to see her parents, who were clutching each other in prayer as they returned a weak smile of assurance to her. She prayed for all to go well, but the odds were against her. The doctor started reading the report out loud with a pang of regret and sympathy. The patient, clutching her hands together, only heard the doctor muttering what seemed like a foreign language until she heard one word, which struck chaos. “Cancer.”
The girl had a passion for taekwondo. Her teacher has always emphasized fast-kicking techniques. She believed that actions struck more power than mere words. Never would she have thought that one word would shatter her world.
The room, as if struck by lightning, exuded into destruction. Thundering sounds of her crying mother, the scrambling of nurses trying their best to give assurance, the doctor looking down at his shoes in guilt or pity, devoid of hope - she still couldn’t tell to this day. As the girl looked around, everything was blurred, as if everything and everyone were now out of her reach. Everywhere she looked was now bleary. She couldn’t see anyone. She couldn’t feel anything. As the darkness consumed her vision and her soul, she felt as if she was trapped. There was nothing to grab onto, no one to hold onto. Everything was gone. Everything she had ever loved was gone in a flash. For the first time in a long time, she truly felt alone.
Medications. Treatments. Experiments. Tests. Positive Lung Cancer Results. More Medications. More Positive Results. Oh, don’t forget the impromptu crying in between. Repeat. That’s how the rest of her days went by. The sun was high in the sky, illuminating the day with no clouds to be in sight. Flowers were blooming, and birds were chirping. People joyously walk near the hospital with huge smiles on their faces as they embrace what their future brings while she watches them through the window of her hospital room.
How funny. Although she lived in the same exact place and time, it was like everyone was moving on. Except for her. She was stuck and will always be stuck. Constant trips to the hospital exhausted her. The medications made her feel disgusted. Every time she looked at herself in the mirror, she saw a ghost staring right back at her, emotionless. The once bright girl has now turned into another helpless test subject of complex drug treatments.
Her first motive was to escape. Cancer. Just a word. Nothing more. It can easily be beaten with just one roundhouse kick, right? She has always been stubborn, unable to accept the brutal truth. Everything always had to go her way no matter what. Well, this was the only exception; her biggest fear became a reality. Upon hearing the news, she blacked out almost immediately. A healthy, fitness freak who had her goals set on representing her taekwondo team? Getting diagnosed with cancer? Impossible. But then again, she realized cancer is just as stubborn as her. They both love to put up a good fight. With confidence, the motivated young girl accepted the duel.
After a month, she was cancer-free. She kicked cancer’s butt and walked out of the hospital with a sense of triumph, with the medal she won from Nationals around her neck. Well, that’s what she dreamed of every day. She never really knew why she would have the same dream. Maybe her body knew that this impulsively-found motivation would go away soon. Perhaps this was her way of coping. Maybe it was her way to manifest the course of her life. This stubborn girl wasn’t about to let a douchebag called cancer take her life away.
As much as she refused to accept it, her body gave it away. Her confidence was washed away as the hurricane-like illness became more robust. She has experienced many hardships, but none were like this. The girl was no longer active. She fell hard. Fell right into the clutches of depression. She hated everything about herself and her life. She hated how she looked. She hated how people stared at her in pity. She hated how people treated her differently. She hated everything and everyone. She pushed everyone away from her, even her parents. Immediately after returning from the hours of chemotherapy at the hospital, the girl would limp her way into her room and lock it, where she would only come out to eat food and drink water - nothing more.
Unable to take it, she started testing her limits. She started taking her medications without any restraint. She smuggled any sharp objects she could find into her room. How ironic. What happened to all of the positivity she had shown the world? She realized that everything was fake throughout all her failed attempts, just like her positivity. Her happiness was a lie.
She was done. She wished for something she would never have imagined. Death.
Two long years have passed. She never thought she would see the light at the end of the tunnel. The whole time she thought she was done for. Perhaps, her stubborn younger self was still present underneath all the levels of grief and sadness her little heart stored. The girl, now entering her teenage years, was finally pronounced cancer-free.
From here, you would think it would be all cupcakes and rainbows. She has done it. She has won her battle. But, the recovery. The recovery was something she was not prepared for.
She felt like a toddler. She needed a lot of help. The drugs weakened her to the point where she couldn’t walk properly. She had to hold onto her parents to do practically anything so that she wouldn’t fall.
She joined school again. Her social life by this time was nonexistent. All her elementary school friends were gone. Socialization: something she has never thought of. She got so used to her loneliness in the past two years. She never thought there was a need to build up the courage and talk to others. It took her a while, but she certainly got there with the embarrassing first conversations.
It took her a whole year to adjust to this new life. However, she encountered many great things: her profound interest in art, her friends, and her teachers. She started to regain the confidence she once had. She reestablished self-love, although such feelings were so unfamiliar to her. It has been so long since she felt truly happy. Her physical abilities were still in jeopardy, but the stubborn girl had finally regained her strength.
Cancer, ironically, gave my dear cousin a new beginning. There is no doubt that cancer is an incredibly terrifying opponent to defeat. The world only really knows the strength of cancer survivors but would rarely question how. How did they get their power from?
It is the little things. My cousin began to appreciate every little thing life had given her. She embraced both the good and bad. Cancer has changed her. She realized that life should not be taken for granted. Even if the worst comes to play in your life, it is vital to embrace it. She wishes she has never experienced such difficult times and doesn’t wish for anyone else to experience the same either. Sometimes she wants to forget all the trauma and the scars, both physically and mentally, but it is pretty impossible to do so. She figured out the secret, the secret to why she felt everyone was moving on without her. She realized everyone held a sliver of hope in their heart. Life indeed goes on. The past cannot be changed. The future cannot be predicted. Living in the present is the best option.
Back in the hospital, there was a shelf of books near my cousin’s little hospital bed. To pass the time, my cousin would shove her face into the world of biographies. One of them was written by Michelle Cruz Rosado. In his memoir, he wrote, “Instead of bracing yourself for the perils of the unknown, embrace the joy that is here, in your present moment.”
She remembered reading that particular line and looking out the window as the sun started to set. Every day was a new day.