I’m not sure when you entered my body, but I started to feel your presence in November of 1993. I remember that day well. I was in the eighth grade and at basketball practice. I was kneed in the back and instantly felt a sharp pain. What I didn’t know was that it was you causing my pain that night. I had to sit out the rest of practice and missed school the next day because the pain wouldn’t go away. You made my life miserable and unbearable for the next two months. YOU were the cause of my misery.
You, yes, you caused me to feel pain in everything I did. It hurt to laugh, sneeze, move quickly, sit on the school bus, sit in the car, and sleep in a bed. I never knew how much pain you would make me feel and where I would feel your presence. The pain could go from a deep, aching pain to a sharp, stabbing pain at any minute. One minute I felt you in my lower back and the next my upper back. You were constantly there, but I couldn’t see you…no one could. X-rays couldn’t find you, and you stayed hidden and continued to spread throughout my body.
You are why I couldn’t focus in school and lost all desire to hang out with my friends. You prevented me from being a normal teenager. You caused me to be isolated from my friends, all before knowing who you were.
You also showed me miracles can happen. I woke up Christmas morning without pain. A day without pain was all I asked Santa/God for. For one day, I didn’t feel your presence; I move freely and felt normal. Unfortunately, you didn’t stay away.
You caused my friends to laugh at me when I couldn’t straighten my back because you had spread into my bone marrow. While I was miserable, you and your friends were having a good old time spreading throughout my body. You were trying to kill me. But I stopped you in the ninth hour.
I was told your name when my bone marrow was 99% cancer cells. It was only then that I became aware of your name…Leukemia.
At the time, I didn’t hate you, and you didn’t scare me. I was relieved to know your name, to know you were the one who caused my pain. You were real. And real meant I wasn’t crazy; I wasn’t making up the excruciating pain I was in like everyone thought I was.
Real meant I would be able to get rid of you. You had been hiding in my body, but now you were caught. For the next two and a half years, we battled, and I won. I kicked you and all your cancer cell friends out of my body for good. That battle took my hair, metabolism, left me with scars (emotional and physical) and long-term effects, but I won. I was the Victor!
It’s been 27 years since I learned your name, and today, I want to say thank you. You showed me I could be stronger than I could have ever imagined. You showed me that prayers work, and miracles do happen. You allowed me to take a once-in-a-lifetime wish trip to Disney World with my family and meet so many friends through camp and other amazing experiences.
Now I’ve written a book about my battle with you, so others will have the courage to fight you too. You might have thought you were powerful, but my faith was more powerful than you. I trusted my doctors, and I trusted God; together, you were defeated. You tried to destroy me, but in the end, you only made me stronger.
Carolyn Koncal Breinich
To read this letter and the other letters to cancer, click here to read and download the June 2021 Magazine
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Fantastic piece! Wow You are fierce, Carolyn. I love how you personified cancer so accurately.
I named my initial brain tumor “Chester” because of a “game” we played as kids.
Although terrible but it was the 80’s… we weren’t as politically correct and we were just kids. So, we didn’t grasp the severity of what we were doing. Yet, we would run around trying to get away from “Chester Chester, the child molester” if we saw a weird old van around.
When I was initially diagnosed, all I could think about was that this thing had invaded my brain attacking it and my entire body. However, there was no running away from this “Chester”. The only thing was to fight like hell against it!
I love your line:
“You tried to destroy me, but in the end, you only made me stronger.”
Thank you for your comment, and congratulations on being a Survivor too! If you are interested in reading more about my cancer and things I have written check out my blog http://www.leukemiagirl.com