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I want to teach others how to believe in conquering "the impossible," how to move past their limitations, even when it seems easier to give up.

Bubblegum Gas

I lie in a cloud of white sheets unable to move, feeling paralyzed from my head down. I open my mouth and the stale taste of the bubblegum gas from the anesthesia hits me. Gross. My mom and dad are standing above me smiling as I struggle to sit up. The weight of my left leg prevents me from being straight, causing the water I try to sip to fall on my johnny. Eyed by all the nurses and doctors, even as a six-year-old, I am embarrassed that I can’t just get up and walk by myself.

In the morning, a shooting pain goes up my leg, waking me instantly. The anesthesia has officially worn off. A sea of doctors comes in to check how I am doing. Why does it take so many people to ask so few, simple questions? My younger sister, Ella, stands by my side as jealousy hits me like a brick. I scowl. I can’t believe she is standing next to me while I am lying here, incapacitated. I lay there trapped on the hospital bed with tubes holding me down as I watch Ella run around my hospital room in a princess dress. Her dress lights up the gray hospital walls around me. It hurts to be trapped while she is free.

The doctors swarm in and check on a tube attached to my leg that is supposed to drain the fluids from my incision. They have me rate my pain on a scale from 1-10. There are no numbers on the chart they show me, but facial expressions from smiley to frowny faces. The yellow sheet of paper is held up as the faces on the page stare back at me. I am in pain, but I feel that admitting that is weak. As I sit there, feeling closer to frowny 7 or 8, I say a straight-faced 5, because I am not weak.

I used to be embarrassed by not being able to walk, seeing my physical limitations as a weakness. The determination to not be weak pushed me to be strong going into every surgery, appointment, or bad day I had to overcome. Being a pediatric cancer patient I experienced the loss of two close friends, the fear of going into each surgery, the struggles of sleepless nights filled with constant pain, the continuous obligation to put on a tough face, and the sadness of seeing my parents upset, the mental and physical hardships from such a life-altering illness. I don’t want sympathy, pity, or special treatment. I want to embrace my success. I want to teach others how to believe in conquering “the impossible,” how to move past their limitations, even when it seems easier to give up.

Looking back on how these experiences have impacted my life I can’t come up with one definitive answer. I know that every step I take is a gift because I wasn’t supposed to walk on my own well, let alone become a two-sport athlete. Now after a year of chemo and six surgeries, I am currently physically unaffected by what happened to me when I was a kid, but my physical accomplishments in the face of medical adversity have inspired me to pursue a nursing career to help others on the same path. I believe that my perspective on what it’s like to experience cancer treatment will bring compassion, inspiration, and motivation to my interactions with patients. So, although most people would want that bubble gum taste, these memories, and the experiences to go away, they are a part of me. I wouldn’t give up the scar on my leg for anything, and every once in a while, I taste the stale gas in the back of my throat, reminding me of everything I went through.