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.
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.
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.
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
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!