It was like being in a violent car wreck, but everything was put into slow motion so that I could feel and observe every slow, painful detail in depth; the pain in my chest the sores in my mouth, the weakness of my whole body, the look of shock and sympathy of strangers that saw me. I had Cancer. I never imagined this would happen to me. I am only twenty, I have my whole life ahead of me! Or that is what I thought before the doctor told me that I have two years to live. I refused to take that for an answer. That timeline only cursed me if my disease got progressively worse. But I knew it would reverse. I would do everything in my power to help it reverse. This is my cancer journey;

I thought the breathlessness I felt during track practice last year was a late case of asthma. One particular day, I hyperventilated, and nearly fainted. The swelling in my chest didn’t go down for a week. I knew something was seriously wrong. I was diagnosed eight months ago. My mom was with me when we got the results from the doctor. The tests showed that I had malignant Mesothelioma, a type of cancer that surrounds organ tissue. My mom tried to hold back tears at the doctor‘s words. I couldn’t express what I felt amid the disbelief, shock, fear, and confusion. I wanted to punch a wall till my knuckles bled, but that wouldn’t help. I had a sudden hatred for my body, I felt like it had betrayed me. But I worked through my feelings. I came to the place where I would my body, along with my doctors and loved ones.

I began researching the cause of Mesothelioma, like a criminal investigator. I went to libraries reading every book on the subject of cancer, finding the best advice published. I researched Mesothelioma online in depth. I went to several doctors and compared their recommendations. I would not stop until I had identified all possible culprits to my illness. Asbestos, one of the leading causes of cancer had somehow leached into my body. The substance is used in construction and insulation, and it can be found naturally in the environment. My dad was a construction worker. During the remodeling of my house a few years ago, I took in dangerous amounts of this carcinogen. I also experimented with cigarettes which made matters worse, but I quite before joining the track team. There was no way I would run nine miles a day with the black lung. But now I had something much worse.

Being well informed of my illness, I felt prepared to seeking the best treatment for me. I went through Chemo Therapy in low intensity dosages. Though asbestos was removed from our house, me found that there were still trace amounts of it in the soil. My family and I moved out of the asbestos prone area, and also informed the entire neighborhood of the hazards. I changed my diet drastically. I went from a carnivorous, junk food embellished diet, to a plan that would surpass the healthfulness of most vegetarians. I was shocked to discover how many chemicals are put into our foods. I avoided all extra refinement and chemicals, cutting out processed foods, sugar, and most meats. I felt like a diet Gestapo at first, but I wanted to bring my body to health, no matter what the cost; even if that meant never eating a Big Mac again! My body went through a major cleansing. Even though the Chemo therapy made me weak, I could feel that I was recovering.

Life after cancer is different. It’s harder, yes, but somehow I savor it more. I treasure every second whether in pleasure or pain. My friends joked with me how I finally got the hard core rocker look I was going for when I lost my hair. Can’t say it was intentional, but hey, I rocked this look. I was approaching my 21st birthday and already writing my will. This will was different; I was writing my will to live. I proved the doctors wrong with their timeline. I was determined to live! There are so many things I must do, and places I must see, and people I must appreciate. I decided I wanted to go sky diving. I want to travel Europe. I eventually want to have a family. I feel like I have been given a new life, a second chance. And this time around I savor every second of it. It has been 4 years and 29 days since my diagnosis and I am alive and well. I don’t let a moment slip through my fingertips un-treasured. Life is a miracle, and sometimes we need to experience healing to realize it. No matter how much time I have left, I treasure every moment.

By: O’Bryan, Deanna

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