World Cancer Day

February 4 is allegedly world cancer day. I have never heard of this before so who knows if it’s real, but I’ll go with it. I spent today having lunch with friends and studying for a chem midterm. It was a pretty normal day. Every day, when I wake up my body aches from walking to my classes the previous day. Usually I’m nauseous or especially tired or having some other symptom that I have come to consider mild. This is frustrating.

But more importantly, these past few months have brought the loss of two children who wanted  so badly to live, probably more than I did. I saw Chy for the last time on Christmas day, and she died a few weeks later. She was still there on Christmas. So incredibly there. Stuck inside of a body that had utterly failed her. And I am so sorry. I wish I could’ve fixed it. Chylee is one of the reasons I am so incredibly adamant that “strength” has nothing to do with cancer survival. Chy was as strong and cheerful as it gets, more than I ever was in treatment. Chylee also had a lower risk cancer when she was initially diagnosed. The world isn’t fair. It sucks.

When Antonio died, I was in the hospital for a stupid cold. I was cared for by a nurse I didn’t know, and when I asked her whether I was going to be rounded on that day (it was mid-afternoon and I still hasn’t seen a doctor) she said that the doctors were busy because an onc patient had recently passed in the ICU. My heart dropped. I have never seen anyone endure so much for so long…it was a level of pain I will never put into words and that none of you can grasp unless you’ve seen it. So much pain. I am attending Antonio’s funeral in a few weeks. When I saw the announcement, I thought about checking my schedule and then I realized that it doesn’t matter. It is so confusing to be in the middle of Stanford worrying about my grades and summer internships when such a big piece of my world is suffering so severely.

To honor world cancer day I encourage all of you to stop romanticising cancer, to really sit with uncomfortable truth that it steals so much and in ways I could never have fathomed before I was thrown into this world. It feels so wrong to update you all with the truth that I am doing okay. Not great, but okay. Much better than the past few years. For now, okay is acceptable. Good days and bad, but not all bad days. Fewer good days than before cancer, but more than while I was in full-time treatment. Today this all feels especially heavy.

3 thoughts on “World Cancer Day

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  1. Oh, my dear, your words touched me so deeply. Antonio was my great nephew and I spent quite a few days each week visiting Antonio and getting to know him and Heather. What a treat. I also became acquainted with Heidi and Chylee and the battle they fought. I look forward to meeting you at the service


  2. Thank you for this honest post. It’s hard to think about cancer, especially childhood and youth cancer. Many blessings to you on your journey.


  3. Brooke, you are so eloquent at expressing the hell that is cancer. Thank you for articulating so well what I was only ever capable of feeling.


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