18 years ago today, I woke up just like any other schoolgirl. Well, except for the agonising stomach pain that I experienced daily. But, I was on the cusp of puberty, and everyone kept telling me I’d start my period any day now. So I got up, had my breakfast, got dressed, and went to school, like any other day.
By that evening, I was lying in a hospital bed, with no clue what was happening to me and what might unfold over the coming days. All I knew was, the pain was unbearable, my parents looked pale and worried, and I suspected that my period had nothing to do with what was going on. That day marked the beginning of my time as a cancer patient.
When this date has previously rolled around, I have posted on Facebook about it and received messages like “Congratulations on being healthy for so many years”. Thank you, and yes, I am fully recovered and it’s a blessing. But this year, I wanted to express a different side of the story, the one that is upset that a child had to experience the illness at all.
The fact that I even mark this day in any way, 18 years later, says something. It says, I still feel the emotional ramifications of my illness. It says, cancer had a huge effect on every part of my life. It says, I remember those days vividly. Yes, I’m glad to be alive, but cancer didn’t nearly destroy me and then walk out the door and my mind forever. I’ve watched it kill family members since then, I’ve felt it hover above my head in every medical appointment ever since. It has left permanent marks on my body.
Today I will be kind to myself.