The first time I heard the word ‘cancer’ was in the third grade when it was on one of my Words of the Week sheets.
The class received the sheet on Monday and by Friday we all had to know how to spell and the definition of the word. For me, the word itself was easy to spell but rather difficult to understand. C-A-N-C-E-R.
So then, my third grader self had to also look up the word ‘tumor’ and after discovering what it was and putting it together, I realized that this was not a good thing.
I asked my teacher what this word really meant and all she told me that it was some terrible condition that makes a family come together. At that moment in time, I thought this woman was crazy; that’s not what the dictionary says. But as an awkward eight year old I just confusingly giggled and thanked my teacher for her time.
It affected the entire community. I wasn’t even good friends with the girl but I remember wanting to be there for her in any way possible.
I could not imagine losing my motivation, my biggest supporter, my best friend- life without my mom is one I cannot mentally picture. This is when I began to try to understand the definition my grade school teacher gave me.
This is when my hatred for cancer really started to arise. My mom’s best friend, Donna, is one of the most amazing women on this earth. She is unbelievably intelligent, beautiful, and inspirational. So my main question: how did such an incredible, uplifting woman have such a malicious mass in her body? I understand that life isn’t fair but this was too much. Now I began to actually see what my teacher meant.
At first I signed up because I wanted to be apart of something here at Virginia Tech (and to make her stop bugging me about it) but after hearing her story, my entire perspective changed. Seeing something truly affect one of my best friends made me want to do something. She is one of the strongest young women I know yet when the word ‘cancer’ is said in conversation, I know it hits her hard. I never fully realized that cancer is so “well known” in almost every household. It made me think about how fortunate I was that I didn’t have a direct hit to the heart.
Of course when those words came out of my father’s mouth, I knew something was wrong. The summer before my second year of college, my dad said that statement to me. Little did I know that this sentence followed one along the lines of ‘I have cancer in my colon.’
You never think it will happen to you and even when it does, you still don’t believe that it did. It hit me like a cannonball in the gut. I felt like air couldn’t get to my lungs- I could barely speak two words. He ‘didn’t want me to worry’ because I’m a busy person here at college. Yes, I’m a double major.
And yes, I’m in a sorority. And yes, I’m already stressed about being five and a half hours away from home. But NO, these things do not come before my own father. After trying to explain this to my dad he still didn’t agree. And that’s the thing about cancer: it makes everyone who is dealing with it so much more selfless. You don’t want to force it upon other people but you can’t deal with it by yourself.
Fortunately, I was chosen to be a part of the Relay for Life Fundraising Committee (aka the best one). My relay family is one of the greatest ones I’ve been a part of at Virginia Tech. Each and every one of them has dealt with cancer in some way and they are the most supportive and loving people on this planet. They are here for me through every struggle I have and I am beyond blessed to be apart of such an amazing group of people.
In case you were wondering, I got a perfect score on my Words of the Week test that week, which was expected because I was an overachiever in elementary school. However, I would’ve never guessed that this one word I was forced to learn in the third grade would affect my everyday life and shape me into the individual that I am today.
I can honestly say that cancer is one of the worst things to ever cross someone’s life, but, with support, dedication, and love, anyone can overcome the battle.