The day that I was diagnosed with cancer was the start of a long, hard, scary, and lonely battle. There were so many horrible things that were a part of my cancer journey. There were the terrible physical things like having to go through 10-hour long chemotherapy sessions every few weeks. I was in so much pain and sick from chemo and the many medications I had to take, I was weak and exhausted much of the time, and I had to deal with losing all my hair and losing so much weight from being nauseous and exhausted. I had no idea what they were actually putting into my body when I had chemo, I just knew that the doctors said it would kill my cancer.

The hardest part was missing out on so many things that someone in their freshman year of high school should have been enjoying. For example, I missed out on my first chance to go to a Homecoming dance. I was really excited to go with a group of friends to the dance. We had plans for pictures and dinner beforehand. But unfortunately, I was really sick the day of the dance and just couldn’t get my body to get out of bed. I was so sad and it was really hard seeing pictures of all of my friends who got to go to the dance.

When everyone else was getting to go to football games, Halloween parties, sleepovers, and more, I was having to spend days at the hospital or days where I couldn’t get out of bed because I was so sick. I missed out on so many fun times with my friends and new classmates.

I didn’t want anyone to see my bald head, so I was the only kid allowed to wear a hat at my school which only added to my feeling so different than everyone else.

In addition to taking a major toll on my body, there would be days when my mental state slowly began to decay. Having all the pain, going to the hospital, staying at my house constantly, and the potential of not even making it out destroyed my mental health. Some days I would just sit there and think to myself the worst possibilities. But that slowly began to change. With each round of chemo, I knew more of what to expect and could better predict which days would be harder than others. I was fortunate because, when I was feeling OK, I could go to school. I still couldn’t participate in anything that exerted energy like my strength training class because of the cancer being around my heart and lungs but I was grateful to be able to see my friends and have some normalcy now and then.

I missed 55 days of school during my freshman year of high school. Even though I was lucky to have good teachers and a good support system, it was still mentally and physically hard to make up so much work and keep up the good grades that I always used to have.

Imagine having all of this suddenly happen to you when you are only 14 years old. I felt alone, scared, and sad for so many months. I didn’t have a connection to any kids that may have had or did have cancer. But what got me through this was my supportive friends, and family and knowing that so many people were sending prayers and hope that I would beat this thing. I was so lucky to have so much help through every step and I tried to keep a positive attitude that I could beat this thing.

I still experience some short-term side effects of the chemo, like brain fog and taste issues, and I am worried that I could someday experience long-term or late side effects, but I have a better and more positive look on life. I’m hoping that with more research, scientists will eventually be able to cure all types of cancer but at the very least initially be able to reduce or hopefully eliminate harsh treatments that result in short- and long-term side effects.

Unfortunately, even with Hodgkin lymphoma, results are not always as good as mine and there are so many other types of cancer that are not treatable. My cancer journey has impacted me emotionally, physically, and mentally. It also affected my family in these ways as well.

I am so thankful for people who want to make a difference in this world and who want to help improve care for kids with cancer and eventually put an end to these cancers.