You came into my life when I was just finding myself. I was in the prime of my life — nineteen years old — only to find out I was born with a deadly and rare form of pediatric cancer called Neuroblastoma and you only decided to make your presence known at the peak of my adolescence. Neuroblastoma is rarely ever seen in patients over the age of five. I always knew I was unique, but not to this extent. Thanks to you, my life has become “Before Cancer” and “After Cancer”.
You stripped me of my identity. There are days where I look in the mirror and do not even recognize myself. I remember the clumps of hair that fell to the tub as I stood in the hospital’s shower room. My long, brown locks were the one thing I was confident about and you took that from me. Now I’m left with thin, fine, fragile hair that barely covers my scalp. You’ve left scars on my body from surgery upon surgery. I’ve gained weight because of all the prescription drugs and chemotherapy that were used to combat you. It feels as if I’m in a body that I never asked for, like I’m borrowing someone else’s body until mine is fixed or repaired, but that is not the case. This is the one vessel I have to walk in for the rest of my days.
You stole my future family. I’ll never forget the day my oncologist told me I’d never be able to have a family because of the treatments I would undergo. I will never conceive that daughter I have always wanted to have with my potential future husband. That being said, you may have even taken the chance for me to have that so-called future husband. Who wants to be with a woman that can’t provide a man with a family to call his own? My womanhood has been stripped away and I was placed into menopause at the young age of twenty.
You destroyed friendships. Friends that I had all my life decided you were too much for them to handle and walked away from me without warning. The “C-word” wasn’t something they asked to be part of their lives and so they decided to toss me to the curb without a second thought. It amazes me how many times I heard “I can’t handle the fact that you have cancer”. Really? As if I asked for this?
You took those I love. I suffered through countless chemotherapy sessions, months of radiation, transplants, and a whole list of other things with two of my best friends. You see, you decided to destroy their lives as well. Three best friends with three different types of cancer. Luckily, two of us made it out alive, however, you had one of us in your grasp for far too long. She could not fight anymore; you slowed her heart and she took her last breath in front of her parents. You left me with guilt that no other person knows unless they have been through hell and back with you — until they are a survivor themselves and witness other cancer patients pass away. I ask myself daily why you had to take her and not me? I would have given anything for her to still be here. You stole my best friend.
You destroyed my faith. Day after day, night after night, I searched for an answer as to why this was happening to me. I prayed to a God I thought existed — a God I thought would never let this happen to someone who believed in him. I questioned how this could happen to not only me, but other good, innocent people, babies, mothers with families, anyone. How could someone who is supposed to love his people destroy their lives or take them from this planet when their life had barely even begun? I learned that all those lies I believed growing up were simply fairy tales to try to get you to be a better person — truth is, no matter how good of a person you are, you, Cancer, can come into anyone’s life.
I’ve been angry at you for many years, Cancer. I’m unsure if that will ever change. I’ve searched for the ‘good’ in our relationship all this time and I’m convinced there is none. Nothing good comes from a disease meant to destroy. It may make someone a stronger person, but no one deserves to have to pick up all the pieces you leave behind when you decide to leave. Instead of becoming a better person, I’ve become a bitter person. I’m angry with how I have to cope with all the side effects from treatment — how I’m left with substantial hearing loss, infertility, organs that barely function, and too many complications to name.
The ‘new normal’ is a saying that all cancer survivors learn and I’m not sure many discover what this ‘new normal’ is. I’m hoping, despite all you’ve done, I’ll learn to push you aside and find a new normal. I’ve been given another shot at life and I’ll be damned if you’re part of it.
You’re not welcome in my life anymore, Cancer. This relationship is over.
— Samantha Martin, 2019