Brain Cancer and Beyond, part 2

Post by Jamie Buchanan for the Kind Kindred series.

Cancer changes your life, often for the better. You learn what’s important, you learn to prioritize, and you learn not to waste your time. You tell people you love them…Gilda Radner used to say ‘If it wasn’t for the downside, cancer would be the best thing and everyone would want it.’ That’s true. If it wasn’t for the downside.
-Joel Siegel


Part 2: Dazed and Confused
Click HERE if you missed Part 1

Nonetheless, I came back from Africa changed. My illness forced me to cope through the world’s worst pain though because I thought I had a simple sinus infection. I began spending more and more time alone, in my room, lights off, with the door shut. I did not want to be around anybody, even family. It always felt like my four magenta walls were closing in on me. I felt alone. I felt isolated. During rowing practice, I constantly fell asleep with the oars at hand. No one understood the headaches and the depth of my pain was unexplainable, even to those I loved. I was skipping meals due to the increased symptoms of nausea and throwing up every morning. I could not tolerate any smells. I remember throwing up every time I caught a whiff of my favorite vanilla cupcake candle. But, I thought, maybe I was just changing, and so was my sense of smell.

Once school started in September, I missed so many days that I was home more than I was in class. My memory began to fade and I noticed I could not recall mathematical formulas or memos teachers told me two days prior. I was always a straight-A student; however, my grades began to slip as teachers questioned what was going on with me. Absences, declining grades, and skipping out on events was not my character. As months slowly dwindled by, these conditions only worsened. People suspected I was “faking sick” because I missed so many school days. Teachers accused me of skipping class when I continuously asked to get a drink, or use the bathroom. Other parents spread rumors that I was bulimic because I was constantly throwing up. Everyone had their own thoughts and opinions about what was going on with me—no one believed me—but, for all I knew nothing could be seriously wrong with me because my pediatrician confirmed my symptoms as a sinus infection that just “wasn’t going away.” Doctors know best, don’t they?

As my symptoms progressed, my perseverance prevailed. I have learned that one must reflect on the positives in order to overcome any of life’s obstacles. In a sense, illness has made me more resilient because it has forced me to deal with enormous amounts of pain and have endured a multitude of losses: both physical and symbolic, while motivating me to be more positive. Thus, when pain strikes now, it seems minor, more tolerable. My diagnosis was also honorable in a way because it showed me what real love is. The love I received from my family during this time made me push myself to survive, not just for myself, but also for them.


I am a passionate optimist committed to helping others improve themselves. 
I have been tested to my core and have overcome against all the odds. 
I will be a beacon, an activist, and an advocate for those who feel they cannot do it for themselves.



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