Take a second to imagine the image of a knife cutting at your skin only a centimeter away from your eye. Imagine blood rushing down your face, as you lay there paralyzed with fear. What if you were hearing a doctor breathing so close to your face that you thought it was your own? Imagine glancing over at your father for even the slightest bit of comfort but instead, seeing him with his hands over his mouth trying not to gasp at an image so graphic. Imagine yourself in a room filled with nurses and doctors, all taking notes and in a sense benefiting from your pain. Envision yourself sitting there, wondering what could happen if you made just one wrong move. Try to hear the sound of knife cutting against your cheek while being told, “Make sure your keep your eyes focused to the left – look at the television.” Imagine being told to look at a television when all you could wonder if this was your last time being able to watch. Imagine being told you have cancer.
I did not have to imagine, this is my reality. December 24th 2014, Christmas Eve was when I was told the most unexpected and worst news of my life. My palms are sweaty; the knots in my stomach are so painful I could almost throw up. I anxiously wait in the uncomfortably cold room. It is so quiet you could hear a pin drop. My hands are clenching the cold metal armrests. To my right is my dad analyzing every poster on the wall, which showed different cases of skin cancer in an attempt to find any that look similar to the bump under my eye.
After waiting for what felt like hours, I watch the gold metal doorknob finally turn. My dad comes next to me and holds my hand. My heart starts pounding so loud I am certain people down the hall are able to hear it. The annoying creaky blue door opens. Doctor Morganstein, a short man in his late thirties. Tingles run up my spine. Just from looking at his facial expression, I knew the results are not going to be good. As he nervously shuffles through his papers he tries to break the tension with small talk. Only my dad is responding to him. I could not speak; my stomach feels as though I am going down a roller coaster and being punched at the same time.
The small talk stops and Doctor Morganstein’s face instantly goes stone cold. I squeeze my dad’s hand with all my might; in hope that it could change the situation, in hope that I could wake up from this terrible dream. Doctor Morganstein proceeds to inform me that the test results of the sample they took, did in fact have cancerous cells. My heart stops, my head falls to my hands. I cannot form words all I can think is why…why is this happening to me? I am only eighteen, how is this possible? Am I going to die? He then explains the cancer that was found is one of the least dangerous skin cancers and that I should not be worried. I should not be worried? Who is he to tell me I should not be worried. Easy for him to say he was not just told he had cancer, I was. I want to seem strong; I am trying to fight back the tears. The second my Dad and I lock eyes, the tears rush down my face.
Doctor Morganstein then begins to describe the two procedures I will need to undergo. One, which, I will be awake and the other I will be put to sleep. As I am sitting there still in shock vaguely listening to what he is saying all I hear is “we will scalpel it off your face”. My head jerks up and I scream “Scalpel? Scalpel with what? That is the one I will be asleep for right?” Unfortunately, his response was not the answer I wanted. I in fact will be awake as they scalpel my skin off one centimeter away from my eye. My fear grows larger. The pain in my stomach becomes worse.
As I sit there staring at the tiled floor pondering life I question myself, what if the cancer I have was deadly? Did I live my life to the fullest? Right then, I realized I did not. Cancer can happen to anyone at any age. Live your life each day as if you are going to die tomorrow.
I was lucky; the cancer I was diagnosed with is one that can be survived. I decided I will not pity myself or dwell upon the negative, but make it as a positive and turn it into an eye-opening and life changing experience. I will accept cancer and survivorship as a part of my life, that I will see this “experience” as a way to bring awareness. I now have to live my entire life tied to the word “cancer”, but I will not let that word defeat me.
As I walked out of the doctor’s office that day it was the start of my new life. I was made intensely aware of how precious life is. My cancer opened my awareness to be truly grateful for the simple things in life and not to take anything for granted. It also made me experience a transformation to a life, which holds an awareness that wasn’t there before. An awareness of how each moment I live carries value and that good things may come at a cost.
I now consider that day as a birth of my new life, a second birthday. A life, which deserves to be celebrated and cherished everyday. A life where I have more faith, belief and love, but less control, expectation, frustration and an immense amount of peace.