Life without cancer - Mikhaila

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29 Sep, 2017
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Life without cancer - Mikhaila

Can I imagine what my life would be like if I never had cancer?

The short answer is… no, I can’t. I’d just turned 19, and had just begun my final year of A levels when I was diagnosed. No teenager expects to be told they have cancer so, of course, my idealistic ‘plan’ for the years to follow did not include surgeries, check-ups, scans, or any of the other things included in the package deal of a Malignant Melanoma diagnosis. My ‘plan’ was conventional and simple; I intended on working hard, sitting my A level exams, getting into university, enjoying my summer holidays and then starting university as a hard-working and confident 20-year-old, ready to take on the next chapter of my life. My biggest worries, at the time, were completing all my essays on time; juggling school and a social-life, amongst visiting prospective universities and working part-time to earn myself some money. I was living the standard, ‘textbook’ life of a 19-year-old girl.

I suppose the natural expectation would be for me to say, ‘but then I got cancer, so my plan didn’t work out’.

Nearly 2 years on from my diagnosis, I’m sat writing this blog post from the library of my university; I did work hard, I sat my A-levels, I got into university, I enjoyed my summer holidays, and I started university last year as a hard-working and confident 20-year old. I achieved all of my goals, but getting to the stage I’m at now was far from easy. Cancer is a battle, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy, but people forget about all the other ‘normal’ things that suddenly become a huge struggle for someone in remission. After my surgeries, I had 2 months off school to recover, and in doing so I missed so much. Returning to classes, to the ‘norm’, was so much harder than I’d anticipated. ‘I’m in remission, the hard part is over!’, I thought. I remember being sat in classes, overhearing people discussing the amount of work they had to do; all the essays they had to write, and how worried they were that they wouldn’t have enough time to get everything done. All the while, I had been dissected, poked, prodded; thrust into a world of such physical and emotional pain, with so much school work to catch up on, so many nights-out with friends that I’d missed because I was lying in bed recovering- I’d barely ventured outside the 4 walls of my bedroom for 3 months. Yet suddenly, I was sat there in a classroom, hating the world for what it had done to me, thinking ‘why is life so unfair?’, ‘why me?’, ‘their worries all seem so trivial, none of them have any real idea of what I’ve been through, or how lucky they are to be “normal”. I was adamant that from then on, this was what ‘normal’ was going to feel like for me.

I was so determined to not let my cancer define me or hold me back, so I worked hard to get to where I am today. Cancer has uncovered strength in me that I never knew I had. I know that I can work through anything, because nothing will be as bad as fighting cancer and powering through all the negatives that come with it. To my surprise, a lot of positives come from having cancer, too. My outlook on life has completely changed; I appreciate everything, all the little things, so much more than before. I will never take for granted the fact that I’m healthy, that I have amazing family and friends and a roof over my head, or that I have access to life-changing and life-saving healthcare. I try not to underestimate my own strength and courage, nor that of others, because I’ve seen first-hand how remarkably resilient our minds and bodies are when they’re truly put to the test. These are just a few of the positives that come from having cancer.

I think it’s so odd to be able to find so many wonderful things from something so devastating. If I never had cancer then I would have never discovered Teens Unite, and I wouldn’t have the remarkable people in my life whom I’ve met through the charity. I can’t imagine life without those friends, and I highly doubt I’d be where I am today, particularly from a mental/emotional point of view, if I didn’t have that support from Teens Unite.

So, I suppose I can imagine what my life would be like if I never had cancer, and what I’d be like as a person, but the truth is… I wouldn’t want to.

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