MY CANCER STORY
In late 2014, I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (a type of bone cancer that forms within the bones) in my left leg. I was only 20 years old at the time; what others would declare being in “the prime of my life.” But, then it hit me one day in late October when I sat in a hospital room with four white walls staring at me, myself looking into the eyes of a physician I just met; attempting, yet failing to grasp onto those three excruciating words you never hope to hear: “You have cancer.”
I was in the peak of my physical state, working out almost six days a week, going to college and working part-time. Life was decent. Life was good. One early morning before school, I was doing a pre-workout stretch on my left quadricep, and I suddenly felt a “tug” that left me stumbling. Wanting to push myself, I continued to workout in discomfort, and continued on my merry way. Days, and weeks passed until I noticed this “pulled quad,” as I assumed, wasn’t healing entirely. A few months had passed until I wasn’t able to stand very long at work and had to take frequent breaks in the supply room on a cardboard box. I went to visit a physician to evaluate my “torn quad” and she totally bought it. No X-Ray, no further evaluation - nothing - and immediately started me on physical therapy. My physical therapist at the time gave me a list of at-home exercises to do, and believe me, they helped. Temporarily.
Time had passed in my continuous discomfort, and the pain went from mild to extreme in an instant. You may wonder why I didn’t pursue to have an X-Ray done, but I sounded pretty convincing to myself, the physician thought so, and also the physical therapist. You see, the physical therapy did work. The heat application did work, along with the exercises. After later consulting with my primary doctor, he immediately had an X-Ray ordered STAT. But, I would’ve never thought it would be the “C-word.”
After having both a needle and open biopsy, I began chemotherapy quite suddenly after being diagnosed. I received five different chemotherapy drugs (I still remember their names till this day), followed with countless side effects (hair/weight loss, nausea, extreme fatigue, hallucination, anemia, infection followed by another infection - you get my drift, it’s a long list). After completing a certain number of sessions of complete misery, the plan was to extract the shrunken tumor, and have a knee replacement, with a rather speedy recovery. Yet, close to the day of the surgery, the familiar pains of my tumor began creeping back. After having yet another MRI done, the next day, I received a phone call from my orthopedic surgeon.
Long story short, my tumor had grown. It responded to the chemotherapy drugs temporarily, yet it became aggressive and had spread onto my tendon. A knee replacement wouldn’t be enough to save my life, he said. I needed to have a left leg amputation above the knee. After hearing I’d have to suffer the loss of my leg, the fact that this “thing” inside me was fighting back - the world surrounding me suddenly became bleak.
I had spoken with two other physicians who agreed that the only way I were to survive was to lose my leg. If not, I would only get to spend the last 6 months of my life here with my family and loved ones. In this moment of my despair, I had to make a final decision within myself, “Do I keep my leg, let the cancer spread and wait to die, or do I fight to survive, and sacrifice the loss of my limb?
A week later, I was prepped and transported to the OR to fight.
Hours later when I woke up in a hospital bed, I felt like I lost the will to fight. I couldn’t bear to look down and face the harsh reality that would be the rest of my life. I wanted to shout, “Why, God?! Why would you let this happen to me?” Yet, I didn’t speak those words. Waking up from that surgery was the lowest point I’ve ever reached in my life. At the age of 20 years old.
I was then introduced into a new world of physicality. I’d learn to walk again with a prosthesis that I’d eventually fit into moths later down the road. I would finish my final sessions of chemotherapy, and learn to adapt to a new way of living. It wasn’t easy, I reassure you. But, I begged God for me to walk again, which I was later able to accomplish with countless sessions with my physical therapist and plenty of practice - and of course, with many tumbles and falls.
I reassure you all, that we’re all fighters. Because of Him, I have become who I am today. Even though we may never understand why we face certain circumstances, there is always a silver lining, and as long as you keep seeking that silver lining, your light will shine and people will notice.
I reassure you that therefore, “We can do all things through Christ which gives us strength.” Philippians 4:13
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