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Meet David Szklaruk Traipe

meet david

Years Awarded:

This world can take you, and any potential legacy, without any warning. What matters is how you spend your impermanence: either chasing after superficial numerical values that can't define a person or living each moment like it's your last and squeezing the life out of every drop of joy it can offer you.

So let me just get this out of the way. This will most definitely NOT be your typical “oh-I got cancer-but-made-it-out-and-became-a-perfect-person-for-it”. No, this is a story in which I’m going to get real with you, I’m going to let you know about the twisted evils that flow through you when you get diagnosed with a life-threatening disease.

DAY I: This has been going on for quite some time now. I’m getting random bruises everywhere. My body hurts like I’m some 90-year-old man, but more than all of that, I’m tired. Every morning I wake up and I feel like I’ve just pulled an all-nighter, and each day of school feels like it drags on forever. After multiple inconclusive doctor visits and a persistent case of scarlet fever, my mom, being the awesome, caring, protective neuroradiologist she is, takes me to the hospital to get checked. My mom is sitting next to me in a waiting bed. She’s trying to play it cool, but I can tell when she’s nervous. The doctor comes in and says this is not a huge deal and that I should just go home and get some rest. My mom, however, would never settle for such a compromise. She goes to the doctor and demands just about every blood test known to man. About 50.000 pricks later, the doctors come in and urgently tell my mom and me that I need to be transferred to a new room.

DAY 2: This room is much nicer! The bed is made of actual cloth instead of that weird rubber, and there’s a window, TV, and even a bathroom within the room, my own personal bathroom. I could live here! (Oh, how little I knew). The doctor asks my mom to speak outside, which is weird for me, but I disregard it. Still marveling at the luxury of my new room. A couple of minutes later, my mom walks in like she’s just seen a ghost and comes to sit down next to me. Without a clue in the world, I ask her “What’s going on?” I can’t remember the exact words she responded with, but I can remember the thought I had after the talk we had: “lol I’m probably gonna die.” Maybe it was because I’m just a kid, or it’s because this is happening so quickly, but I’m not processing what’s happening to me. However, the severity of my condition would soon fall upon me: I had just been diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia.

DAY I’ve lost track at this point: After what felt like eons of nonstop blood tests, I get the luxury of a central line, a massive tube that goes through your arm, into your heart, via surgery to dump chemo and draw blood without making a puncture every single time. At long last. I am gifted the sweet, sweet luxury of rest. I will never again take the sacred ritual known as sleep for granted ever again. However, this blessing also came with a curse: the IV machine- a contraption that processes the chemo and other liquids into your bloodstream, with the sole purpose of always annoying you. I’m not having a great time.

DAY I’ve lost track at this point +1: This is it. This is the week where everyone- doctors, family members, even myself thinks it’s over. My health has been on the decline for a while, and it seems like it’s time for me to go. There are so many things that could have gone through my head at that moment, but only one thought emerges: “This sucks.” I’m not thinking about my cancer, but rather, my life before it. I spent each day waking up, going to school, swimming, doing homework, and watching TV; the boring life of a kid. I realize that if I die today my life would have amounted to nothing. “Well if good grades and exercise aren’t going to do it for me, what will?” I had an epiphany: what’s most important in life are the things that aren’t meant to last. Joy, laughter, a nice TV show, or a delicious meal, are all ethereal.

This world can take you, and any potential legacy, without any warning. What matters is how you spend your impermanence: either chasing after superficial numerical values that can’t define a person or living each moment like it’s your last and squeezing the life out of every drop of joy it can offer you.

DAY oo: After one year of outpatient treatment, I could finally start living again. Experiencing the world with this new lens, I gained new insight. The relationships you have with others are the most important things in life. During this outpatient experience, I had an amazing friend who would come with me for 4 hours a day, every day, just to talk, play, hang out, and be there for me. He gave me something to look forward to, which isn’t easy in those kinds of circumstances. More than that, I owe just about everything to my mom. If she didn’t push that doctor to get those blood tests, I would very much not be breathing right now. If it wasn’t for her, I would have spent every day in the ICU cold, alone and scared. Those relationships and with the people around me are the reason I’m alive to write this story today.