Character trait – courage

Published 7:35 pm Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When I was 16 years old, I found a lump in my neck that changed my life forever.

I began my personal battle with Hodgkins Lymphoma and faced six long months of fear and uncertainty. I felt emotions I never knew I had, and endured treatments that literally made me feel like I wasn’t human.

Cancer taught me what I now consider my most valuable law of life, which is courage.

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In the beginning, I was full of so many different questions, the most important being whether I was going to live or die.

My surgeon assured me that my cancer was treatable and usually curable. Wow, what a relief, but how would this interfere with life as I knew it?

A million thoughts ran through my mind. Of course, what teenager would not be concerned about their appearance? Would I be able to go to school, be on dance-line, hang out with friends on the weekend?

I was consumed with how long it would be before this nightmare was over and when would I be well again.

The fear really set in when I walked into a waiting room full of pale and bald children and realized that I, too, would soon look like them. One thing I noticed was the look on all of their faces. They were all smiling!

How could someone go through this at such a young age and still be able to smile? Seeing their faces and their resilience assured me that I could do this.

Everything was happening so fast and yes, I was scared. However, it was that very first trip to the oncologist that I realized, I have got to be brave and get through this.

Cancer treatment took a huge toll on how I felt about myself physically. There were days that I woke up feeling brave and willing to do whatever it took to get on with the treatments, but the day would end with me feeling as if I were losing my sense of self.

Furthermore, I didn’t feel good or want to do anything. Every round of chemotherapy was just one step closer to the end.

As I laid in the hospital bed watching the “poison” infusing into my body, I felt braver by the minute. It was a feeling that no one could understand unless they had experienced it themselves.

Losing hair, eyebrows and eyelashes are things I didn’t think about when I was well. During chemotherapy, those very things became the forefront of my life.

During my cancer treatment, I discovered the things that really mattered to me and the values which now govern my life. I have learned that courage is vital to the existence of my spirit and without it, I am nothing. Because of my personal battle with lymphoma, I realize and accept difficulty as a part of life. I now know that before I can live by the laws of life, I must discover them for myself; this is why my most valuable law of life, courage, has made me a survivor.