September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. At PCFLV, we are committed to spreading the GOLD all year long. However, in September, we truly make it our mission. 30 Days, 30 Stories celebrates the children we know and love and the brave battles they fight and have fought, with their families by their sides. In celebrating these beautiful children and their stories, we hope to inspire you to join us in our mission to SPREAD THE GOLD in September and all year long!
On the second day of my sophomore year of high school, I found myself in the nurse's office. I was not there because I was conventionally sick. I was there because my normal anxiety developed into a full blown panic attack. In first period in soon to be dropped French class, I began to feel the onslaught of sweat begin to pour from my body. My palms were drenched. I was leaving marks on my seat. During that class, I decided that what was going on was not normal and headed down to the nurse's office where I laid on one of those dumb cots that no one who is actually sick would ever use. The nurse refused to send me home at first because she didn't think that being nervous on the second day of school was that weird, but the feeling I had in my gut certainly rendered me unable to learn anything. After enough convincing the nurse finally let me call my mom to come pick me up. I thought this would be a good thing, but when she got there I faced a brand new set of challenges. How do I tell her what I'm going through? My mind turned to a setback that happened to me earlier in life, that should have immediately given me no doubt about my mom's acceptance and love for me. This setback was my diagnosis of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is a form of cancer that mostly affects children. In fact, it is the most common form of cancer in children. It quickly tarnishes your bone marrow until it cannot produce any functioning blood cells, essentially rendering your blood stream useless. You lose the ability to fight infection, your blood refuses to clot, and it rapidly takes over your entire body. I was 3 years old when I was diagnosed. This is an age of complete uncertainty. I was uncertain what this all meant. I was uncertain what would happen to my parents. I was uncertain of how to tie my Goddamn shoe. Nothing in my life was stable. Despite all this uncertainty, my 3-year-old mind was sure of one thing, and that was my parents would always be my side. Throughout the entire ordeal, my mom and dad were there to support me. They gave me love when I needed it and bought me toys when I wanted them. I was spoiled, but I think I somewhat deserved it.
My treatment lasted for 3 full years, but sometime into my 6-year-old life, I found myself in complete remission. No more overnight hospital stays. No more foot long needles into my spinal cord. It was all over and life could be good. But life isn't always good to you, even if you experience something as horrific as I had. My panic attack proved that fact.
When my mom and I finally arrived home from driving home from school after what seemed like forever, I embraced my mom and finally told her everything that was going on. What was going through my head and all of my struggles. She listened to every word as I spewed out years of anxiety building up to all come fumbling out on this single day. We both cried together but after we finished crying, I felt okay. Not good again but okay at least. My mom and I talked for a while longer and finally she decided I should see a therapist. I was hesitant at first. I wasn't crazy. I didn't want people to think I was either. My mom told me how she used to go a little and how it helped and I eventually decided it sounded like a good idea. I would go and give it a try.
Therapy was one of the best things to happen to me. A good therapist is very valuable. Being able to spew your thoughts out to someone with no judgments and who only wants to help you is always a good thing. I was able to tell her everything that was on my mind and what was causing my issues. After seeing her the next day, my mom convinced me to go to school the day after that and just give it a shot. My parents came in with me and we went down to the guidance office to revise my schedule as that seemed to be a big source off my stress. After doing so, my parents and I all thought I would be going home, but my guidance advised me to go to my classes. I did not feel ready for that step whatsoever, but my parents told me I should and so I did. I sat there at school like a nervous wreck but held back from going to the nurse again. I almost felt another panic attack coming, but I kept it at bay. I made it through the day and felt very happy with myself. I had made progress. From that day forward, I saw a therapist and regularly spoke to my guidance counselor to make sure I was doing okay. My therapist helped me a lot. I started to see myself be slightly more outgoing and not sweat as much in social situations. My prescription of Prozac may have helped as well but drugs always seem to make things sound easier. Whatever it was though, I was moving forward. That is not to say I didn't experience occasional bouts of nervousness but I knew how to deal with them and they became more and more spread out. I am an anomaly in that I recovered fairly quickly. I never had another serious panic attack and I felt good. None of the would have been possible without my parents though. And my case is unique in what I had to go through but I think that is a fact that everyone has to realize that your parents are so important. You need them and they need you. In my case, they were the difference between life and death. I don't know how common that is, but at they very least they gave birth to you which deserves some respect. I love my parents and I know how much they love me. I would not be the person I am today without them and I respect them for always being there for me.