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Teen Essay Series: Dear Cancer, It’s Me, Amanda

This is the fourth in a series featuring the finalists in our Inaugural Teen Essay Contest. Amanda Jackson’s essay won 2nd place in the Personal category.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAmanda Jackson is in 11th grade at Buena High School in Ventura.  Her favorite part of her school day is the Transitional Partnership Program at Ventura County Medical Center.  This program gives special education students job skills training and experience.  After school she enjoys walking her golden retriever Rusty, talking on the phone, and listening to music. 

Dear Cancer, It’s Me, Amanda.

We’ve known each other for a long time, but now it’s time for me to tell you my story:

During the last ten years, I have had six rounds of chemotherapy, three major abdominal surgeries, four rounds of radiation, a bone marrow transplant, and antibody therapy. My first chemotherapy started on Tuesday, January 7th, 2003. It was a disgusting red color, but I knew it would have a chance to make me better.  I was stuck in the hospital for over 200 nights the first year, and my mom and I were in Children’s Hospital Los Angeles alone while my dad and three sisters stayed home in Ventura.  When I was first in the hospital I was scared. There were new things coming into my life, and I didn’t know what was going to happen.  Since I was only 9, it was scary for me to be in the hospital.  All the effects of the treatment made me sick and weak, my hair fell out, and I hated the whole idea, but I didn’t want anyone to worry about it.  My mom had to quit her job teaching to stay with me through the whole journey. When family came, that was the hardest because I didn’t have the energy for family.  Whenever I went home, I always had to be on medicine and IV fluids so I couldn’t walk around because I would fall down. Because of my treatments, I had lots of infections and blood clots. When I was in and out of the hospital, I missed a lot of school activities, and I couldn’t run or move around at all.  Last, I was always away at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles feeling sadness and loneliness.

But you know what, cancer?  You were trying to hurt me, but you did good things in my life, too. You made my wonderful sister Emily want to be a pediatric oncology nurse to help other children with cancer, and she loves her work at Children’s Hospital Orange County.  Back in 2007, my two other sisters, Megan and Melissa, and I started going to Camp Ronald McDonald for Good Times, where cancer patients and their siblings can be regular kids for one week.  It is a wonderful camp for a time to talk about what you’ve gone through, and now I go every year.  Before I had cancer I was afraid of dogs, but when I was in the hospital I got to meet therapy dogs who I liked. Now I love dogs, and I even have a golden retriever of my own. When I was battling cancer, I didn’t have much time for activities, but now I am appreciating school and going to church because I know what it’s like to miss out.  During our family’s entire struggle, we became a more loving family and now we are closer than ever before.  Last, I have a love for life and I always enjoy every day.

Cancer, you’ve been with me half my life, and you really hurt me in a lot of ways. But while you were hurting me, you were helping me too. You’ve been in my body so long that you made me brave and strong; and now, I’m not afraid of you anymore.

Sincerely,

Amanda

PS: Please, and I mean please, don’t come back!

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