During the summer before eighth grade, I noticed a few lumps on my neck about the size of my thumb. They felt hard, immense, and uncomfortable. At first, I ignored them, thinking they would go away; but they didn't.
--- Written by Cathleen M., Age 14 --- Florida
Finally, I told my mom. Mom was a doctor and could recognize almost any type of disease. Patients, whose medicine their doctor gave them failed, often came to seek my mom for eastern treatment.
My mom's expression became confused and apprehensive as she examined me. Right away, she picked up a phone to call the hospital. I know something was extremely wrong. One thought hit my head and dropped like a bomb that exploded in my brain.
Cancer. It's a funny word. It can make you feel queasy in your stomach when you sit in the hospital with an IV in your arm. The word, cancer, can also make you feel grief for those who died from it.
Lying on the hospital bed with the air-conditioner turned to the 40's, I shivered and my hand went numb. The IV bag was filled with ice-cold water that was being delivered into my bloodstream.
A nurse came in and took my blood. I watched the needle sink deeply into my flesh and then out again. It took about 10 minutes because they attached a tube to the needle. That meant there was a possibility of withdrawing blood again.
Nothing caused me more sadness and anxiety than to see the uneasiness of my mother. Her eyebrows deepened and she sat there beside me as an uncomfortable silence stood between us. She unexpectedly looked about 5 years older.
Examining my young hands, I looked back on the life that I have. Was I satisfied with it? Right away I began to regret everything I'd done wrong. I began to regret the sorrowful times I'd felt.
Now things like appearance and clothes seemed very unnecessary and it seemed ignorant of me to worry about them. I almost began to cry but held the tears back because I could not bear to shed them in front of my distressed mother.
The nurse came again and drew some more blood. This time I felt no pain, only the worries crowding up in my head. "They don't know what it is. They don't know what is wrong with you," my mother spoke in a dry voice. More silence. What was wrong with me?
More memories kept on flooding back in my head. In 6th grade I cried often because I was too skinny and didn't blossom as quickly as the other girls did. I had cried for the fact that my hair wasn't as shiny and wavy as the pretty girls.
In 7th grade, I cried for the fact that I was kicked out of gifted program. I had whined because I thought that I was dumb. Now looking back at the wasted tears, I realized that I should've ever shed them.
I suddenly regretted that I hadn't joined more clubs, hadn't gotten the courage to speak to my crush, and hadn't gotten the chance to finish learning the Spanish I began in 4th grade. I felt insignificant and superficial as I recalled the times I'd teased others.
By then another nurse had come and wheeled me into a x-ray room and took x-rays. In spite of the fears and concerns piling up in my head, I couldn't help but notice how cute he was.
I was then wheeled back into my little room and laid back on my bed again. I began to pray; If only I had 2nd chance. If I really do have cancer, I pray that I would have a second chance on my life.
I must've been in that hospital for hours with my mother. Finally, I had a nurse take out my IV and 'blood drawing' tube. I slowly paced to the main desk with my shaky mother, who looked as if she might collapse.
If I did have cancer, I wouldn't be able to graduate from middle school. I imagined the attendant telling me, "I'm sorry Cathy, you are diagnosed with cancer." I bit my lip and swallowed hard.
The nurse began to speak, "We don't know what Cathy has. This is very unusual. Her blood test shows no signs of major disease such as cancer or leukemia…" I breathed a sigh of relief and smiled for the first time in a week.
Leaving the hospital that day, I said a little prayer for all the unfortunate ones in the hospital that carried a certain illness. I wished for them the best of luck as they concentrated on the only thing that they had, hope.
It's funny how a hospital trip could change the way I distinguish life forever. I think it was God giving me a 2nd chance to embrace life. It was yet another step up the ladder of maturity.
After the hospital visit, I began to enjoy little things such as rain and sun. I walked through the open doors of chance and got the courage to do the things I wanted to now. From that moment on, there would be no more 'what-ifs'.
Instead of stressing over my clothes and my appearance, I smiled and laughed as often as I could. I continue to cherish each morning I live for and every moon I see.
I've learned how precious each moment is and how easily life could be taken away from you. Today may be the last day of your life for no one knows what might happen tomorrow. Now everyday I look back and ask myself, 'if I died today, would I be satisfied with the life I have'?