My life sucks. I was born with neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells found in several areas of the body. With stage four neuroblastoma, I developed tumors on my lymph nodes, my adrenal glands above my kidneys, and my spinal cord. Once a month I visit Delaware’s closest hospital in Wilmington to receive chemotherapy. I walked into Alfred duPont Children’s Hospital while holding my mom’s hand, for what seemed like the millionth time. Dr. Farhaggen greated me. “Hello Kelsey! It’s nice to see you. How was your weekend?”
I wanted to say that it was horrible. How was I supposed to have a fun weekend when I have several tumors in my body to worry about? Instead I responded, “It was good.”
“That’s great! Are you ready to get started today?” Dr. Farhaggen looked at me with soft and compassionate eyes.
“I guess.” To make the chemo more bearable, Dr. Farhaggen told me to think of the tumors as a person named Neuro. He told me that Neuro was very stubborn. Neuro did not want to leave my body; he just wanted to damage it. Dr. Farhaggen told me that is why we need to do everything we can to get him out of my body. The chemotherapy that I was getting once a month, killed the parts of Neuro that were growing. Dr. Farhaggen described it as “killing dividing cells by damaging the control center in each cell”. I was walking to my usual chair when I noticed that my mom and Dr. Farhaggen were behind me. They were walking slowly and talking quietly, it was probably something about Neuro and I.
“Unfortunately, the chemo isn’t having the same effect on her as it did when we first started. The cancer is going to continue to spread if we don’t operate soon.” My doctor of eight years looked somber as he shared the news with my mom.
“What are the survival rates?” She started getting tears in her eyes. I knew this could not be much worse.
“Thirty percent,” Dr. Farhaggen finally announced, after what seemed like an eternity of waiting.
“Isn’t there anything else you can do?” She was crying now. I ran over to her side and held her hand.
“I’m sorry, we’ve done everything we can. I can schedule the surgery for next week Tuesday. Is that alright?” I looked up at Dr. Farhaggen as he spoke. He was tall with dark brown hair and soft blue eyes. I knew I would always be able to trust him.
“Yes, Tuesday is fine.” My mother was nearly sobbing. I hugged her stomach and continued to hold her hand.
“Great. Kelsey, I promise that I will get you the best pediatric surgeon in this hospital!”
“Thank you, Dr. Farhaggen. I’ll see you next Tuesday.”
Leaving the hospital without feeling like I need to sleep for a century was strange for me. I had been at this hospital once a month for the past eighty six months receiving chemo. My body had energy like never before. I felt like I could go play a sport, something I’ve never been able to do. I usually get tired right away or run out of breath.
As we walked out of the doors and into the parking lot, the wilting leaves on the trees reminded me that everything dies. Someday, I am going to die. My mom is going to die, my dog Spot is going to die, everybody’s going to die at some point. Whether it’s in eighty years, one month, or tomorrow. It’s going to happen. Death is a concept I have learned to accept after having cancer for my whole life, eight long years. I guess that is why I’m not afraid about my surgery next week. If I do die, I know that I’ve lived a wonderful life.
The two hundred and sixteen hours to follow that cloudy fall day, seemed to go by in seconds. Suddenly, I was walking through those hospital doors once again. Except this time was different. The doctors weren’t trying to kill the growing parts of Neuro, they were going to try to remove him, all of him on my adrenal glands at least. My mom brought a box of tissues, knowing that she’ll need them later when the doctor wheels me off to the operating room. After waiting in my room with my mom for an hour, the nurses finally came in to prep me for surgery.
The next thing I knew, my mom was saying, “I love you.”
I whispered, “I love you too, Mom,” as the doctor wheeled me out of the room.
A man with dark brown eyes wearing surgical scrubs, placed a clear mask over my face. He told me to count down from ten. I did, but before I reached three, everything went black.
I woke up in what seemed like seconds. I was on my back in the bed of the room where it all started earlier that morning. My mom was speaking to the surgeon assigned to perform my surgery. She was crying. I thought that the surgery didn’t work. Neuro is still growing in my adrenal glands, my lymph nodes, and my spinal cord. Not even surgery can help me now. The surgeon said something that seemed to make my mom happy; she hugged him.
“Kelsey!” She ran over to the side of my bed. “The tumor on your adrenal glands, it’s gone!”
Immediately, my body filled with joy. I have never been as happy as I am right now. I felt invincible. “That’s amazing! What about the other tumors?” I questioned.
The surgeon responded, “They’re gone. Nobody in this hospital can figure out what made them go away. It’s truly a miracle.” He smiled and left the room without another word.
“I already signed you out,” my mom said. “We can leave as soon as you get dressed.” She sat silently in a green chair across from me. I pushed back the covers and scooted off the bed. I grabbed my clothes from the foot of the bed, and went into the bathroom to change. When I came out, my mom was standing outside of the door with a smile on her face. I handed her the blue gown. “Are you ready?” She asked as she placed the hospital’s clothes back on the bed.
“Of course I am. I can’t wait to go home and see Spot.” I skipped out the door holding my mom’s hand. As we drove home, my joyous feeling didn’t go away. I loved it.
I walked in the front door of our home and gave Spot a hug. Suddenly, I was tired. I looked at the clock on the wall. It read 10:38 PM. “I’ll see you in the morning Mom. Spot and I are going to sleep.”
“Good night, Kelsey.” My mom walked over to me and gave me a hug. I hugged her back. I strolled through the living room and into the hallway that contained our bedroom doors. I found my light purple bedroom and walked into my bathroom. I started brushing my teeth when all of a sudden, I was blinded by a bright white light. At this point, I wasn’t sure what was happening anymore. It took me until then to realize that I had been dreaming during the surgery. I only had one question: What is that light?