When I was seventeen years old, I was told news that would forever change my life.
Nobody expects it; Nobody ever thinks they will be diagnosed with cancer. And yet, for an unfortunate minority, our worst nightmare becomes a reality. We are looking death in the eye, and it can sense our fear.
As I have just come out from thirty treatments – Chemotherapy, intrathecals, and radiotherapy – I feel it is time to discuss the impact this news had on my life. However, what I say may surprise you – I urge you to read and imagine your reaction, should you be placed into my shoes. I urge you to look at this not as a plea for pity; But a cause for great hope.
I remember it vividly; The x-ray of my chest had nurses flooding in, one after another, to look at it and nod solemnly in agreement. I was taken into a small room with my mother, and they broke the news.
“Your left lung is grossly abnormal,” they told me. “We’re sending you to A&E.”
And, as I would soon find out, that was only the beginning.
I look back, and see a rush of emotion; It seemed like an eternity, and yet it went so quickly. Next thing I knew, I was in the ward being told I needed a biopsy. I cried; I was afraid. Then, the worst part came; the gruelling five day wait which would give me the results. But impatience breeds negative emotions, and in crisis we don’t have time for that. I spent my days trying to focus on something- anything- to distract me.
“Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma.”
I am certain that not many people my age can say they have faced death. I envy those people – and I hope they never, ever have to face it. It’s a horrible experience, knowing you could die before your life has even started.
However; This is what I wish to talk about.
I am thriving. Seven months have passed since my diagnosis, and I am a completely different person. When I arrived in hospital, I was depressed and full of anxiety – But that person, that version of me, is gone. She no longer exists.
I am a new person. I am a better person; a much more healthy person. My life is meaningful, whereas before I would have told you the opposite was true. And the reason for that?
Cancer is a terrible, awful thing. I would never wish it on anyone, and if I had to go through it all again, I’m not sure how I’d cope. However, it happened to me – and when you can’t change something, you have to make the best of it. Such is life, right?
I made the best of my diagnosis – and I am thriving. I no longer exist as a girl who hates life, or a girl who is filled with such intense sadness she can’t function. I exist as a girl who is ready to begin her life, anew.
I want you all to stop and think of all the things you’d love to do. Maybe it’s to learn a new language, to travel across the world, or to chase your childhood dream – all the things you never had time for. That is where your life can really begin. Find a passion, and pursue it. Chase your dreams. Do something with your life that people will never forget.
Make your life a story worth telling. Not for other people – but for yourself.
Life is short, and it is a fragile thing. I never realised this until I was faced with reality; You could be gone tomorrow. I could be gone tomorrow. Isn’t that frightening? Doesn’t it make you want to pack your bags and take that trip you’ve always dreamt of?
I am writing this essay to inspire – to show you all that life is a beautiful thing. A fragile thing. Life is about living; Not existing. I drifted through my teenage years, consumed by sadness. But I have changed that – because I can’t bear the thought of dying with nothing to show for my life. I can’t bear the thought of dying without having done the things I wanted to do.
I refuse to drift anymore. I refuse to exist without living. I want to live, to be free – and to make it count. I believe that we all need dreams to pursue, and I want you all to think long and hard: Are you happy?
You have the key to your own happiness; So go, pursue your dreams. Pursue happiness. We often don’t know we’re lost until we find ourselves.
I write this in the hope that someone, somewhere, might take the step they never believed they could take. I write this in the hope that someone will read it and realise how wonderful a thing life is. It’s short. It’s hard, too. But that does not mean we can’t make it into something beautiful. Life is a beautiful thing; an amazing thing.
Adventure, because you just might learn something about yourself.
Take one step at a time, and watch the flowers bloom.
Live, because you never know what tomorrow may hold.