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Time Cannot Stand Still

by Hedda PhanSurvivor, GangliogliomaMay 16, 2024View more posts from Hedda Phan

Have you ever stopped to notice the way time stands still when a fire truck or an ambulance passes by? Cars in the intersection and pedestrians in the road all freeze. I know that it is required by law, but at the same time, it is a beautiful thing, a display of the good that humanity can be. Someone is in need, and we all come together to do our part to make sure they receive the help they need. And when the moment passes, almost like someone pressed play on the video that is life, we all resume, going back to our daily activities.

I should have known that time would not stand still for me. The ambulance came in the night, no lights flashing, no siren blaring. It just drove up to my dorm building and parked. If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one around to hear it, did it really happen? You see, when you have a seizure, flashing lights and loud noises are generally not good when trying to be saved. I don’t remember much of the experience, but I know that the ambulance was without lights or sound as it drove me to the hospital. The world did not stop for me.

And I did not stop for it. I carried on with school, pushing my way forward through classes as I received my diagnosis and geared up for the big surgery. What other choice did I have? At 5 am one morning in March, I checked in at the hospital. I would not leave the ICU for the next five days. Those were the most God-awful days of my life, and when they were over, I was a little worse for the wear. Once again able to walk, I took laps around the neighborhood. It was jarring. My little college town seemed exactly the same, its bright and bustling self no worse for the wear. I, on the other hand, had my head held closed by staples. I wanted so badly for my experience to have made some dent on the fabric of the world, for people to stop and look at the staples, to acknowledge what I had gone through, but no one wants to look at an ugly wound.

I returned to school, and while I had been frozen in time, the rest of my classmates had not. I heard stories of fabulous spring breaks and exciting new experiences, and God, how I wish the world had stopped. I wanted time to have stood still for me, waiting until my return to it to start moving once more. But we don’t always get what we want, do we?

Two years out, I reflect on my past. I have not thought about my brain tumor in months. I get regular scans to make sure it hasn’t returned, and it never does. I am about to graduate college and I am heading to a PhD program. But little things still remind me of my past, like today on the bus. We were in an intersection, about to turn, when I heard the sound of sirens. Everything came to a halt, and the only thing in motion in my field of vision were two fire trucks speeding through the intersection. I remembered my last time in an ambulance and wondered, “Did time stand still for me?” It did not, not in any meaning of the phrase. I really wish it had.

But time can’t actually stop for anyone, and at the end of the day, all we can do is move forward.

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