Meet our scholar recipients
Meet Rachael A
"Cancer is merely one of my stories. The subject is not a sensitive one for me because my goal is not to be pitied but to inform."
Deep breath. Exhale. I blow out the seven brightly lit candles on my princess cake and my family cheers for the celebration of another year of life. I freely dance around the room in pure innocence. Youth was all I knew. All of us underestimated the value of that breath, and no one could have imagined that this celebration could have easily been my last. Two weeks after that birthday, I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Wilm’s Tumor cancer.
The tumor was the size of a grapefruit and had completely consumed my right kidney and part of the lining of my stomach. Every breath mattered now. I will never forget watching the tears flood from my mother’s eyes as we received the diagnosis. She is the strongest woman I have ever known, and I had never seen her cry. The vulnerability that hung over that room repressed us all. My innocence was sacrificed that day. Your mother should always be able to tell you that everything is going to be all right, and in that moment she could not. After the grueling surgery. I was confined to my bed and couldn’t eat for weeks because of the treatments and lost over twenty pounds. With nothing to do, and television being almost torturous with all the food commercials, I would read or write to occupy my time. My love for writing was born. I kept a daily journal, and never talked about my cancer, just everyday events and stories, real and make believe. Writing brought me to a place much brighter than my reality. I would write about princesses like the one on my cake and their journeys (they always saved the world; they never had a prince come save them). I would write about the boys I liked at school, even though they looked at me funny because I was always in a wheelchair and wore a bandana to cover my bald head. I wrote a picture book on the Relay for Life that was dedicated to me in my small town, and I wrote about my Make a Wish trip to Disney World. I wrote about the stupid fights me and my sister would get into. When my hair was growing back, I taped a dollar into my journal from an old woman who gave me it for being “such a good boy.” I didn’t have anything holding me back on paper like I did in real life. I could shape my life to be however I wanted it to be. They were my words to create, something in my life I had control over. It created an outlet and provided positivity that kept me going everyday; never once did I think I was going to die. I was officially in remission in 2005, and even though the cancer was gone, my love for writing was not. I stopped keeping up with daily journals once I became a teenager but I have them all kept in a bookshelf. I would not be able to write this and remember everything if it wasn’t for those journals.
Writing has a way of keeping memories and history alive and every writer in their own respect is a historian. Many important things would be forgotten without the written word, and that really intrigues me. This passion has stayed with me throughout all these years of healthy life. I discovered my love for creative writing in my teen years. In my junior year, I outlined a proposition for a school newspaper and brought it to my principal. The first issue came out in the fall of my senior year. The feeling of walking into the cafeteria and seeing everyone read your creation is indescribable and I decided in that moment that it is what I was meant to do. It is the art I wish to perfect and do every day of my life. Cancer is merely one of my stories. The subject is not a sensitive one for me because my goal is not to be pitied but to inform. Facing death like I did will teach you what is truly important to you, no matter how old you are. It has shaped me into the person I am now, who I believe to be an independent and mature young woman. I only look back at my experience with gratefulness towards my strong family and my opportunity to discover my passion. Your world is whatever you make of it, and how you cope with the misfortunes and blessings dealt to you show your true strength. Deep breath. Exhale. Life is precious.