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Teen Essay Series: Dear Cancer, It’s Me

This is the second in a series featuring the finalists in our inaugural Teen Essay Contest. Sarah Goldberg’s essay won 1st Place in the Personal category.

essaySarahGoldbergSarah is a 15-year-old freshman, straight-A student, at Oak Park High School.  She was diagnosed at 6 months of age with a solid tumor in her abdomen. After successful surgeries to remove the tumor, she subsequently developed severe scoliosis and has worn a body brace since age 5 1/2.  She has also been extremely active fundraising for children with cancer.  In the past 10 years she has raised over $6,000 by selling cookies, holding garage sales, and having bake sales, often getting her whole school involved in her projects. She has even gotten celebrities to donate items for an eBay auction. Other than that she is just an average teenager; she loves to read, swim, and hang out with friends.

Dear Cancer,

It’s me Sarah Goldberg. The girl you decided to infiltrate when she was only a baby. If you don’t remember, which you probably don’t because you hurt and kill so many amazing people, let me jog your memory.

Remember when I was four-months old, and had not gained much weight, so my parents and pediatrician began a long series of different medical tests trying to find out what was wrong with me, while you played hide-and-seek with them? Remember when I was six-months old, and still had not gained weight and my parents put a feeding tube in me. You were so excited – food served directly to you. But your game was up that night! The radiologist finally saw you. You had gotten so fat and so large feeding off my body, that you had collapsed my lung and started pushing into my diaphragm. Remember that?

I am sure you remember when my parents took me to the hospital and all the attention that followed. Remember the pictures of yourself taken from various angles and with various machines. You were so coy and so shy. You kept all the doctors guessing.  Were you lung cancer? Were you a liver tumor? Or maybe you were just a large blood clot. Nobody knew for sure, but everybody agreed you did not belong inside my tiny body anymore.

Nobody will forget your impeccable timing. Of course you chose the weekend of the anesthesiology convention, when all the experienced anesthesiologists for infants were out of town. You knew that would totally prolong your stay in my home.

Do you remember Monday, October 19, 1998, a.k.a. the day of our battle. Do you remember the pain and agony you caused my mom as she rocked me and held me close before I set off with the surgeons. Do you remember the pain you caused my father as he whispered goodbye to me, not knowing if that was the last time I would hear it? I’m sure you are smirking as you remember how you threatened my life and forced my parents to imagine all the horrendous possible outcomes.

Do you remember the fight you put up during surgery? Despite all the photographs taken in the days before, you were much bigger than anyone had anticipated. Oh that pleased you plenty – forcing the surgeons to change their plan of attack. Unable to pull you out through the first incision, you forced them to cut me twice, having to push you out through the second incision.

You were so proud of yourself. You were so big, so hidden, so massive, trying to take over my tiny body. But when the battle was over, you were the dead one, not me.  Although you weighed a whopping one pound, and I was only nine pounds, nobody anticipated how strong I could be.

But, dear cancer, we all know that you weren’t quite done with me yet. Do you remember the mess you left inside my body! You left my muscles weak, my insides unable to hold themselves together. You gave me feeding issues for years and created an environment that many believe caused my severe scoliosis. I had more surgery, more hospitalizations, and have even worn a body brace for the past 10 years, trying to clean up the mess you made.

Despite all that, cancer, I want to thank you. You did not affect my ability to think, to learn, and to be. You did not affect my intellect or my spirit. In fact, you actually made me stronger. Because of your evil, I was able to bring more good into this world than I, or my parents, would have thought possible.

Because of you, and what you did to me, at age 5, I started a charity, “Cookies for Kids with Cancer.” Every year since then I have been committed to decimating your existence and the effect you have on others. I donated stuffed animals to other kids you put in the hospital, signing each card with my painted handprint since I was too little to write my name. I donated books to the children’s hospital waiting room, so other kids would not have to think about you while waiting for treatments. For years, I sold cookies and pencils, had garage sales and bake sales. I have received matching donations from cities I lived in, donations from survivors, and parents and spouses of survivors of you. I have had my communities and friends involved in all kinds of events raising money to get rid of you. Over the past 10 years I have raised over $5,000!

You should know, cancer, that despite all the good that came of your invasion in my body, you do not get credit for it. The fact that something beneficial to the world came out of your decision to permeate my body has nothing to do with you. I, and many others, will continue to work together, to eradicate you from this world. There will come a day when you will be but a distant memory, a disease we learn about in history class.  You will be nothing more than a boring, inconsequential, irrelevant, and meaningless disease. You will no longer be able to cause anyone pain, sorrow, and suffering like you caused me and my family, as well as thousands of others.

I truly believe that good will always prevail over evil, and you, cancer, are pure evil.  After reading this letter, I hope you understand that continuing to fight is futile. Perhaps you should take a lesson from the lemmings, and just give up. But if you won’t, remember this, I will always be here to fight you. I, and many others, will never give up.


Sarah Goldberg

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brava Sarah Goldberg…know that scientists are working hard to try and figure out Cancer which is nothing simple and nothing easy. We need more smart kids like you to choose science over business or practicing medicine. We need the NiH to be able to fund projects that will lead to cures. Call your congress person and let them know we can not give up on funding science.

    May 21, 2013
    • Sarah Goldberg #

      Thank you! I am planning to become a doctor :).

      December 23, 2013
  2. What an incredible story. You are a strong and brave girl!

    May 23, 2013
    • Sarah Goldberg #

      Thank you! 🙂

      December 23, 2013

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