thirteen years, I was just a regular kid. I loved sports, and theater,
and hanging out with my friends. I did a lot of equestrian stuff, as
as playing softball, field hockey, doing track and field and learning
row! I also took a lot of drama and music classes.
I guess, really, that I was the classic, overcommitted, full of beans young teenager! So, when my left leg started to hurt in 1994, I didn't think much of it. Yeah, I thought, I've fallen over and bruised it, I hit it on a hurdle, or got it when a horse tossed me, or something. No biggie. And my doctor, thinking the same, gave me antibiotics and sent me home.
That went on for a week or so, with the pain getting worse instead of better. My leg was also swelling a lot. Then, one day, my mother came home from shopping to find me in tears from the pain. She bundled me up and took me to the 24 hour medical center. The doctor there gave me some painkillers and scheduled me for a bone scan the next day.
In a bone scan, they inject a special dye that makes the bones show up really well in an X-ray - especially tumors. It turned out I had a tumor the size of a small grapefruit on my left femur, or thighbone.
My doctor had already called in a specialist, who told me that my tumor might be benign, but it was probably malignant. Either way, it needed to be treated right away. I was dumbstruck. Cancer? I couldn't have cancer! Oh my goodness, what were they going to do to my leg?
We were told that I probably had either osteosarcoma or Ewings sarcoma, the two most common forms of childhood bone cancer. We should, the doc said, hope that it was osteosarcoma. The worst case scenario was that it would be Ewings.
It was Ewings.
During my surgery,
of nerves were cut and some of my arteries were damaged trying to get
bone out. Apparently it was quite stubborn! As a result, when I came
of surgery, I was told that I would probably never regain full use of
leg again. I would be lucky to walk without two crutches.
as far as I was concerned, that was unacceptable. I was going to walk
and, in time, I was going to run, no matter what the doctors told me. And so I had to begin the arduous
task of learning how to use my leg again. I had many more months of
ahead of me, but I went back to school part-time, fitting in chemo and
physiotherapy around school and my friends, which wasn't easy.
For a long time, I
walk with two crutches. I got so frustrated in those days, thinking I'd
never walk again, that everything was too hard. Those times, I had to
myself that I was tough enough to beat this, and to prove everyone
Eventually, I graduated from two crutches to one crutch. At school, my nickname rapidly became Weaver, after Kerry Weaver on ER, who walks with a crutch. Sometimes, that bugs me. Everyone else has nicknames based on what they like or the things they do. Mine is based on what I can't do, on something beyond my control. And I hate being reminded of that. I just want to be normal.
In short, I'm back at school, as a senior. I turned seventeen on August fifteenth, and, up to then, I hadn't had any recurrence of my cancer. As far as I was concerned, it was never coming back, and that was more that fine with me!
It's strange, but I
go back and change things. I wouldn't make the decision NOT to have
I've grown too much as a result - I don't take things for granted any
and I think I have a greater appreciation of life. Now, I'm an active
in my life. Before, I was just a spectator.
There are a lot of things that bug me - my scars, for example. I have scars from surgeries on my leg - and they are HUGE. I have one rule about how I dress - I don't like for people I don't know really well to see my scars. I really hate to wear short shorts or swimsuits. I don't know how I'd get by without opaque tights!
I get treated
because I limp, and I still use one crutch sometimes - my leg gets too
sore and tired without it. People I don't know see that, and assume
had a knee reconstruction or a car accident or something. And they're
with that. Very sympathetic, in fact. But when I tell them I had
their entire attitude towards me changes. They move slightly away,
realising, and either spend the rest of the conversation telling me how
brave I am, or treat me like a mental defective.
I don't think I'm brave. I just did what I had to do, that's all. No one ever gave me a choice about it. You have to handle it, or else you go crazy. I chose to handle it. It helped that I had an amazingly supportive family. My sister Lucy, who's three years older than me, was wonderful.
We'd never been close before, but when I was sick she brought me edible food, told me jokes and gossip from school, ran errands for me and made life just a bit more bearable. On top of that, she had to look after our house, basically bring up my brother Benjamin while my mother was busy with me, cook and clean AND graduate high school! When Luce got her license, the two of us went on a huge road trip, a la Thelma and Louise. Just brilliant.
My mother, of course, got me through everything. She sat up with me when the pain was so bad that I would just cry for hours. She'd take my abuse without comment when I was cranky, and did all those icky things - holding sick bowls, cleaning me up, sponging me off when I had a fever - that nurses can't do quite as well as your own mother, and that makes all the difference. My strongest memory of my illness is of my mother singing me softly to sleep, or singing to comfort me when I was crying... Russian folk songs, popular tunes, the melody of a classical piece. It invariably soothed me, calmed me down, and gave me strength to get through the worst times and to see another day.
It's my ambition to go mountain climbing in Switzerland and Austria someday. I keep setting myself goals, and I've achieved a lot of them. I'm competing (and getting placed!) in equestrian events again. I'm doing some plays and acting work, which I find to be therapeutic as well as fun! I go for a walk, with or without crutch, every morning in the time when I used to jog. I swim all the time. I'm going to graduate high school with my class. So I have to keep setting myself bigger, better goals!
Well, that was plenty long, wasn't it? I hope you enjoyed my story!
choices...It's up to you!