Cancer Story

Back to School

Continuing my experiences from the post on 9/14, I’ve now finished my treatment and was returning back to school. At this point, I was in 4th grade and didn’t really think much of how my friends would react to my return. However there was the feeling of excitement and anxiety like it was the first day of school. I remember showing up to class right after lunch and there was my classmates welcoming me back. Since I was still on treatment, I was only allowed to stay at school for part of the day and then resume the rest of my schooling at home. On that first day, I was quickly reminded how important it was to be part of school and having friends nearby. Initially it was showing them what I’d been through including procedures, hospital stays, and showing some x-rays that I brought with me. The proof was all there and at my age I was proud to show off what I’d been through. However, over time I started to be ashamed of sharing my treatment experiences because I could tell that some were freaked out. To put some perspective here, everyone was around 8 to 9 years old so the concept of cancer didn’t really make sense to most at that point. Also I didn’t have any hair at this point so wearing a hat in class was unusual and I could tell folks were wondered why I would be wearing it. Yet I had my good friends there to back me up in case any uncomfortable situation were to arise.  The most uncomfortable parts of being a fourth grader with cancer is having to leave halfway through the day and having to wear a chest protector during any activities outside or during intramural time. I was required to wear a chest protector to safeguard my catheter because I was still having my blood drawn and was receiving small amounts of chemo each week. Throwing on the chest protector was interesting especially when I had to hide around a corner to put it on and how it felt under my shirt. The chest protector was bulky and I could tell that others knew I was wearing one. Despite my annoying protective gear issues, I had a gym teacher who understood my situation and always found ways to involve me no matter what. For example, if we played floor hockey I was always the goalie since I was already wearing the chest protector. If we played kickball, I was the catcher which prevented a line drive from hitting my chest. As time went on, I would be allowed back for a full day of school and felt that my life was resuming back to normal.  From time to time there would be a couple of reminders that I was still different, especially when folks I didn’t know would take my hat off my head and notice I didn’t have any hair. This made me more self-conscious of my looks and made me more aware of anyone attempting to pull my hat again. Eventually, my medications would wear down and my hair started to grow back. I was about to finish fifth grade and was looking forward to middle school as my next challenge. The exciting part was that my catheter would come out that summer which meant no more chest protector. Thank god! My doctors indicated my blood results were looking good and at the moment I was in the clear. For the next few years, I would continue to live a healthy life that included an occasional office visit in case anything were to come back.

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