The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

Dear Cancer: You Lost

by Aliana SchnelkerSurvivor, Osteosarcoma in left distal femurJune 24, 2024View more posts from Aliana Schnelker

Dear Cancer,

Hi, it’s me again. We haven’t talked in a while, but honestly, I didn’t know what to say to you. You failed to drag me down and I rang that wonderful bronze bell in spite of you. There was a celebration when you finally moved out. Of course, you took a bit of my femur with you, but I don’t mind. I got a really cool scar in return. But once the party was over, life kept pushing me on. My school schedule resumed and I had to start doing chores again. You stopped my life for a whole nine months, but as soon as you were gone everything continued on as if you had never existed.

To this day everyone tells me that I never truly processed your inhabitance in my body those nine months. To be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot of what you put me through. I occasionally remember throwing up—thank you for that delightful taste in my mouth by the way—or dancing in the hallways with my IV pole which I named George. Mostly I remember the good parts where I played with other kids whom you chose to inhabit or heard funny jokes from my doctors before going into surgery. But those are small memories. In an attempt to evict you, my medicine wiped out all the bad memories. Maybe that’s for the best, though. Until now I haven’t been able to figure out what to say to you. I think I finally have a good idea, so here it goes.

After you left, my life moved on as if you had never been a part of me. I all but forgot you until I went to physical therapy or tried to be active like the other kids. I can now see all the ways that you have changed me, though. For starters, you took away my social life. I was only eleven when you started your grotesque growth spurt. I was just a kid trying to do normal kid stuff with other kids. I was popular and had lots of friends. I had a crush on a boy who I had turned down because my daddy wouldn’t be happy with me dating in fifth grade. Then you snatched that all away. I hardly saw my friends for a whole year, and by the time you were finally done with me, I had moved schools and lost my ability to feel comfortable in a conversation with my peers. You made me feel less than and I isolated myself. After all, who would want to be friends with the chubby bald girl on crutches? I know what you did. You can’t hide the fact that you are friends with loneliness. You may have left but you made sure your bestie stayed with me. It’s been seven years and I still can’t get rid of the loneliness you left me with. No matter. I’ll put it on my to-do list.

Then you punched me in the gut when you took my relationship with my mother away from me, although she still holds most of the blame. You were the stage director who put my mother’s true self in the spotlight. For the first time, I could see her clearly. I saw a person who cared far less about me getting better than she did trying to stop my dad from seeing me. I saw the way she treated my father like a criminal in front of my face. I saw that she was willing to put me in harm’s way just to hurt my dad. I don’t know whether to thank you or blame you, but she is no longer in my life. I left her house just like she left me stranded on my hospital bed and just like you left me to pick up the pieces of my broken relationships. There is no doubt that you are a thief. A mighty fine one too. You stole my health and my relationship, but you failed to take my faith.

I have to laugh at this. You took so much from me. It’s been seven years and I am still trying to understand the impact you had on my life. But you could not remove my faith. In fact, I found God because of you. That day when the doctors discovered your presence in my body you thought you had crushed my spirits. I thought so too. I thought you were going to drag me to the grave at only eleven, but what you didn’t see was the other person in the room. His presence drowned out the voice of my doctor and washed my body with peace. He sat next to me and gave me the biggest hug. If I hadn’t just heard about you, I would have thought I was in heaven. You were cackling down in my leg as He whispered in my ear, “Cancer will not win—I will.” You had no idea, but I knew from the start that you were playing a losing game. You would not win because my God was in control. My God had a plan and it did not include you. Who is laughing now? You took a lot, but in the end, I gained a relationship with my Lord and Savior who has walked with me through loneliness, through the broken relationship with my mother, and through the healing. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20.

I’m sorry, but you lost. Scratch that, I’m not sorry. I acknowledge you, but you lost. You have given me great testimony to tell others, but you lost. And now it’s my turn to fight back. You know those other children you are living in, rent-free? I’m coming for you. With the light of Christ, I am coming for you to stop the loneliness and to stop you from breaking relationships. I am coming to stop the fear that you cause, if only to do the will of my Savior. I am coming to shut you up and lock you down. You cannot have these people. They are not yours for the taking. You may take their bodies, but I assure you, you will never take their minds nor their smiles. You will not win. Watch your back; I’m coming.

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