Teenagers with cancer are put on the edge of their life at a very young age. The lucky ones get to live with the memories and late effects. It’s not fair to get cancer when your life has just begun. And it’s not fair, that if you are lucky enough to survive, you now have to look ahead and expect a life filled with late effects and all kinds of traumas. In this article teen cancer survivor, author, blogger and speaker Mette de Fine Licht shares how it feels being one of the “lucky” ones.
What did I know?
Ewing’s Sarcoma they called it at the hospital, when they finally found out, why I was tormented by so many pains. The bad boy (tumor) was in my right leg, just below the knee, inside the bone. Yikes! Apparently, it had been there for a year or more. I thought the pain was coming from all the sports I was playing, that I was to blame my morning run, winter skiing and horseback riding for a double sized knee and a lot of pain. I was 15 years old. What did I know?
A life full of restrictions
Today, I have a metal prosthesis instead of the bone in my right leg. The prosthesis is placed underneath my skin. Besides from the long scar on my leg you probably won’t be able to tell that this leg is in fact made out of metal and the other one is not. I owe much to the white coats (doctor) who saved my life and left me with a metal device – and a life full of restrictions:
I am grateful, but I miss …
I did survive. And I did learn how to walk again. For that I am glad and grateful. But I still miss my morning runs, the view from the top of a mountain covered with snow and the communication with of a horse full of muscles. I am one of the lucky ones. I made it to the sunny side of life again. But being a teen cancer survivor haunts me every day.
When the supermarket is too big, and I end up walking half a mile to find the milk, carrots and pasta and then the prosthesis hurts so much that I am about to sit down in the aisle of the supermarket just to take a moment. (I am allowed to walk approx. two kilometers (about 1.2 miles) a day. If I walk more than that, the pain will begin).
When I’m unable to carry my own bags because I’m not able nor allowed to lift heavy things anymore. (If I do so, the prosthesis can break).
When I’m forced to park the car so far away from wherever I am going and walk the rest of the way.
When I have used up all of today’s steps and now, I am unable to take my youngest son for a walk in the stroller so he can fall asleep.
When I can’t lift my oldest son even though he needs to be held in his mother’s arms.
On days like that I feel more haunted than lucky. A rainy day in October almost five years ago was one of those days.
Chemo killed your fertility
I sat in a new waiting room, waiting to see another white coat. This time it wasn’t an oncologist. It was a fertility doctor.
I had met my husband. We were in love and we had a dream. Like most couples in love in their late twenties we dreamed about having a family. But that dream was crushed on the rainy October day.
“Chemo killed your fertility. You will probably never be able to get pregnant,” said the fertility doctor with the glasses on the nose like most doctors have them.
That day I left the hospital building feeling haunted by my past like never before.
I have now lived longer as a teen survivor than I have lived as a ‘normal’ child and teenager before the nightmare of cancer began. I do not expect it will disappear.
Today, I know, that some parts of me will hopefully always be with me including bad memories, a metal prothesis and all the pain that comes with the it. I hope that the prothesis will carry me for many more steps. I hope that everything I wish wouldn’t have happened will stay in the past. If it stays in the past I know, that everything in my present will be as good as it can be. Even though it hurts to go to the supermarket. It’s nothing compared to chemo.
I did survive. I did learn how to walk again. And despite all odds I did get pregnant. Twice. (Cancer “only” hit me once).
Mette de Fine Licht was diagnosed with bone cancer by the age of 16. Today, she is cancer free, married to her prince and the mother of two boys. She has written 10 books including Willpower Girl – A Teenager’s Trek Through Cancer. You can follow her on Instagram as @will_power_girl and Twitter @Mette_Licht. Also, check out her blog: https://willpowergirl.com/teenage-cancer-blog/