My Childhood Cancer Experience


Daniel Campos, Reporter

I’m sure most, if not everything you’ve heard about childhood cancer has been negative. You have probably heard about how horrible a disease it is, the deaths it causes annually, and all of the terrible side effects and permanent damage caused by chemotherapy. While I still acknowledge how painful it is for many patients and families of patients, I think it’s also important to acknowledge that childhood cancer is a very umbrella term, and that any two cancer patients’ experiences can be vastly different. For some survivors, their cancer experience was traumatic, and there are many survivors that actually suffer from PTSD due to it. However, that was far from the case for me.

Whenever I look back at my cancer experience, most of what comes to my mind is all the positives that came from it, rather than the negatives. Before I talk about all the good things that came from my experience, though, I want to go over all the bad things. The absolute worst thing that immediately comes to mind is the taste of heparin, an anticoagulant. When I say taste, you may think it is ingested orally. I wish it was. Instead, it is injected intravenously, and simply holding your breath or washing down the taste does nothing. It is like a burning sensation inside your tongue, and it tastes the way rubbing alcohol smells. 

When I was going to receive my first ever round of chemotherapy, I was scared stiff. I remembered what my 5th grade science teacher told me about it being so painful that he wouldn’t wish it on his worst enemy. In truth, for me at least, while it was a pain that I could feel throughout my entire body, like he said, it was really no more painful than a bruise. The really painful things were the tumors pressing against my spine that got so painful that I could no longer sit down, lie down, stand up, or be in any position except a squat without being in a lot of pain. 

It only got worse until I was finally diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer and received my first dose of morphine (which was still not enough). Even though this was a very strong pain, I still think it is trumped by a pain that, from what I have found, hardly affects anyone. The worst pain I have ever felt was from an echocardiogram, which is basically an ultrasound for your heart. It felt like my skin was being ripped off. I imagine that it hurt so bad because I was very thin. I was so thin that, according to my mother, I looked like I could die at any second. Thankfully, whenever I get an echocardiogram now, it is not painful at all. 

I can also recall needing to get some kind of needle stuck into my body every single week, but it really wasn’t that bad and I eventually got used to it. I used to vomit every day, but again, it was something I got used to. The final physical problems that I had were some panic attacks, which were completely miserable, but few and far between. I can’t recall any mental problems, and the only family problem that I remember is my mom needing to quit her job to take care of me, but thankfully my dad earned enough to sustain us.

I always liked to think that the pros vastly outweighed the cons when I was going through treatment, whether it be because they actually did, or because it just made it easier. I think this mindset was a deciding factor in my survival, and so is, itself, probably the biggest pro. When I received the diagnosis, I was mostly in shock, but a thought that had soon come to mind was that I’d be missing school. A lot of it. In fact, much to my delight, I ended up missing the entire rest of 6th grade (from December onward) which was, up to that point, the worst year of school I’d ever had. Hooray! I got to spend most of my days playing video games and surfing the web, and it was awesome. The best part was that when I went back to school in 7th grade, I was able to catch up pretty quickly with everyone else, and ultimately it was like I’d never even missed school. One thing that certainly doesn’t apply to everyone is that I was diagnosed in December. I remember getting so many Christmas presents I didn’t know what to do with half of them. Additionally, Christmas time wasn’t the only time I received gifts. There were many organizations which provided a lot of assistance to my family and I throughout all of my treatment and after it ended. It also affected my parents positively in a way, because they were able to get health insurance.

While there may have been more negatives than positives, I still believe the positives had a greater weight. And while I wouldn’t wish my recovery experience on anyone, I am actually thankful for what happened and would never consider trading it for a normal 6th grade.