Welcome to our special section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering student mental health, well-being, and redefining success from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus). We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
I was 13 years old when I experienced my first symptom of childhood cancer. In the middle of my basketball season, I felt a sharp pain and soreness in my hip. An avid athlete, I figured maybe I didn’t stretch right or thought perhaps I pulled a muscle. After consulting my athletic trainer, I was provided with stretches to help alleviate a strained groin. And yet, the pain persisted. It got so bad that at one point, my dad had to carry me off the court in tears. Something wasn’t quite right, but I never imagined it would be osteosarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer typically affecting people under the age of 25.
When the doctors first gave me my prognosis, I was terrified. Cancer? At my age? It couldn’t be true. I’m young, healthy, and active. Above all else, I couldn’t imagine missing out on my sports seasons, especially with lacrosse about to begin, my favorite sport! But, as in basketball, I knew I had to pivot my thinking and make my move quick to win this game. I began treatment immediately. Starting with 10 weeks of inpatient chemotherapy and surgery to remove the tumor from my hip. After surgery, I went through another 18 more weeks of chemo. At 13 years old, my faith and patience were tested in ways that I never thought possible. But, by staying positive and having hope, I can confidently say that today I am 15 years old and a survivor of childhood cancer.
Looking back on my journey, I realize that it was my state of mind that helped me most. I was told that people who are optimistic during their battle are more likely to come out victorious. There is good in every bad situation, so I had to find my silver lining. I made up a mantra to remember during stressful times: “Stay positive, stay happy, stay hopeful.” It was this short phrase that kept me in good spirits and helped me stay focused.
Now, with high school classes, sports, and many exciting teenage milestones ahead, I’m bringing these lessons and my mantra with me to take on all of life’s challenges. Here are a few that I find helpful:
Finding the light in a dark situation
Looking on the bright side and staying positive helped me in my battle with cancer, but also other situations. I find people are drawn to positive personalities and energies. Sometimes, to make a situation better, you just need to change your perspective.
Value your family and friends
The people in your life are there for a reason. They love you, they are there for you, and you mean everything to them. Let them help you stay positive. Confide in them and cherish them.
Create a personal mantra
Mine is “Stay positive, stay happy, stay hopeful.” I refer to it almost daily for motivation, inspiration and focus. Whether it’s a big game, an upcoming exam or just something scary, having a personal mantra is always a great tool to overcome an obstacle.
Never lose hope
Above all else, never lose hope. It’s hope that keeps us optimistic and positive and often times, it is our mindset that allows us to overcome life’s challenges.
I’ve been cancer-free since December 2018 and am more excited to live my life than ever. This year, I’m looking forward to my lacrosse season starting next month and spending more time with my family and friends. I was also recently named an ambassador for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, which funds a lot of the research for childhood cancer treatments, like the ones that helped me overcome my osteosarcoma.
As I look ahead to the future, I’m exploring different possibilities. I’m interested in studying astrophysics or politics and would love to attend a university like M.I.T. or Georgetown. With so much to look forward to, I continue to focus on my goals, appreciate my journey so far and most importantly: stay positive, stay happy, and stay hopeful.
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More on Thrive on Campus:
What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need
If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help
The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis