Starting in 2006, Cancer Pathways of Seattle, Washington started a unique program called Cancer Unwrapped Writing Contest. This program uses the power of writing to allow the children of families undergoing cancer treatment the opportunity to write about their own emotions and experiences. Ten years later, this writing contest is still successfully helping families cope with pain and the stress of cancer. We want to thank Anna Gottlieb of Cancer Pathways for sharing some of these heartfelt stories with us. Search Out of the Mouths of Babes for more stories.
My Friend Cancer, Angela Meach
The chemicals ran through her body like acid, draining the life from her weak and fragile body. She turned her head – her mother lay exhausted from a long day of working. Her vision began to blur, her throat began to tighten. Before she could wipe the tears away, her mother slowly opened her eyes catching her daughter’s tears. This was the moment she would never forget. Her mother reaches towards her cheek to wipe the tears away. Her mother smiled, “keep fighting baby, we are almost there.” On the verge of death, she pulled through. After a yearlong battle with Leukemia, the battle is finally over and she had won.
I was diagnosed with Leukemia when I was eight years old. I was hospitalized for a year, and missed a lot of school. It was very difficult for me to learn, due to the chemotherapy. Because of it, I had to go to summer school. I lost all of my hair. Instead of the fairy tale you see in movies or on T.V., I was bullied. I was beaten up after school almost every day for a week by boys who felt that I was “contagious”.
On Friday of the first week, my mother noticed my bruised face and bleeding lip, and promptly took me out of summer school. This was when I met my tutor, Mrs. Shells, who pushed me to be the best that I could be. She did not see me as a weak and fragile little girl that everyone else saw; she saw my strengths and pushed me to my limit. Without her, I would have been held back almost 2 years. Instead, I am graduating high school with a 3.6 cumulative G.P.A!
When I finally went back to school in the 5th grade, the people who I thought were my “friends” became strangers. No one wanted to be friends with the “Cancer Girl”. I soon learned how to be alone, and due to my weak condition, I was not allowed to go outside and play with all the other 5th graders; I became an outcast. Finally, I moved schools to Midland Elementary where I was around kind and loving people. This is where I became really close friends with Vanessa Navarro. She was the only person who could see past the no hair, scars and the mask; she saw me as a person. She is still my best friend to this day.
With everything that has happened, she is always right there for me. From the ups and downs; from the beginning to graduation day, she will be right there next to me. Vanessa has always been there for me, yet I didn’t know it was possible that someone would need me as much I needed Vanessa. To this day I regret failing the one person who would never let me down.
Amanda and I met June 25, 2013, outside of the thrift store next to the Graffiti Garage where the vibrant expressive paintings had been covered with dull white paint, waiting for new beginnings to emerge. With the bags in my hand, I watched a young girl fall outside in front of the window. I ran outside the store to help up this stranger; she laughed. Although confused, I extended my hand towards her and she grabbed ahold of it. At first, I began to think she was some crazy girl, but then she began to cry. I kneel down so that I was at eye level with her, she looked at me with tears in her eyes, but a smile on her face. “Thank you.” she whispered, and slowly rose. She walked away, as I stood dumbstruck, left in front of the thrift store.
A few weeks later, I began my volunteer service at Mary Bridge Hospital, with a program called “Friend to Friend.” I had the opportunity to share my experience with my own battle with cancer, with current people who were still fighting. “Room 305” was my last room of the day to where I would meet and get to know the patients. In this room, I met the girl who would impact my life more than I ever could have imagined.
She told me that the day I met her outside of the thrift store, she had just been told she was diagnosed with Leukemia; the same cancer as me. It was her 6th day of chemotherapy, but she already looked like a different person. Every Saturday, when I went to volunteer, she was always my last room of the day. We talked about everything; she became one of my best friends.
Over the years, I looked forward to seeing her every weekend. I had someone who would listen to every problem that I had, and every pain that I felt, I shared with her. She was suffering in the hospital bed, but still had the strength to give me advice and smile.
One day, it was really bad, the pain was over taking her. That day, I was not allowed in the room for 3 hours, behind the walls hearing her cry with agonizing pain. Finally, when I was allowed in the room, tears blurred my vision; this sweet innocent girl was left in a bed of sweat and tears. I walked towards the bed and she smiled a weak smile. I wiped the last tear on her cheek with my thumb, “I will be here for you, every Saturday.” I promised this to her, but I failed her.
The summer of 2014, I missed a total of 12 Saturdays with her. In the month of August, I received a call at 10 a.m. I soon found out that she had become worse, and that they did not know if she would make it. I had rushed to the hospital that day to find out that I was not allowed to see her because visiting hours were over and I was not on the volunteer list anymore.
Amanda passed away August 15, 2014. She would be 13 this year. I had failed to keep that promise and that is a lesson I will never forget. People can leave at any moment in time; it is important to spend time with those who matter. We are limited by the hands of time and every second should be cherished. Amanda will always be in my heart, and I will never take for granted the time I might have left with people who matter.
Without all of these experiences and people, I would not be the person I am today. The pain and every struggle created this strong independent woman I am now. I would not be here today if I gave up that night in the hospital bed, if I gave up after being beaten down by those boys.
I am here today because I am fighter and I will not stop until each battle has been won.