The rest of my story

Me and a Best Friend
Now, as far as I was concerned, that was unacceptable. I was going to walk again, and, in time, I was going to run, no matter what the doctors told me. 
What an obstacle
And so I had to begin the arduous task of learning how to use my leg again. I had many more months of chemo 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 could only 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 tell myself that I was tough enough to beat this, and to prove everyone wrong. 

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 wouldn't go back and change things. I wouldn't make the decision NOT to have cancer. I've grown too much as a result - I don't take things for granted any more, and I think I have a greater appreciation of life. Now, I'm an active participant in my life. Before, I was just a spectator. 

Guess which is me!

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 pretty oddly 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 I've had a knee reconstruction or a car accident or something. And they're fine with that. Very sympathetic, in fact. But when I tell them I had cancer, their entire attitude towards me changes. They move slightly away, without realising, and either spend the rest of the conversation telling me how brave I am, or treat me like a mental defective. 

Guess which is me!

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 family was there for me

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! 

Love Maddy


Post Script

Poems Experts     Sister     Brother

So many choices...It's up to you!

Joan Fleitas,Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468

Last updated: November 14, 2004