Anna had planned to attend college, maybe join a sorority, and perhaps someday counsel individuals with alcohol and drug addiction. She worked diligently to compose an admission’s essay that would explain “a life event that shaped who you are.” These are Anna’s words:
My junior year of high school was anything but normal.
My life now is anything but normal. November 25, 2009 I was diagnosed with stage four Ewing’s Sarcoma. Just like any other teenager, I felt invincible and I was enjoying life as much as I could. I had a future to look forward to, and I was eager to greet it. When I was diagnosed this all seemed to change. The world did not stop, my life wasn’t put on hold, and neither was anyone else’s. Wouldn’t that have been great? If for the nine months of fourteen chemotherapy treatments, thirty-one radiation treatments, and fifty plus days spent in the hospital the entire world would stop and wait for me to return to not only rejuvenated health and strength but also normalcy. Maybe that’s selfish to ask but if everyone’s lives stopped it wouldn’t make a difference. When I use the word normal to describe how I wished my junior year would have gone this includes everyday teenage girl interactions and experiences. Reading The Great Gatsby is normal. Watching the high school football team lose 81 to 0 is normal, at least at my high school it is. Studying for a physics test is normal. Singing every word to “Tik Tok” by Ke$ha with friends is normal. I don’t consider being hooked up to an IV every two weeks as normal. I don’t consider having someone else’s blood administered into my veins as normal. I don’t consider learning more medical jargon or more about the hemoglobin of my blood than about modern literature as normal. Normal is not skipping the pages in the magazines that talk about hair care because you don’t have any hair to care for. I don’t consider having nightmares about peers seeing you without your wig as normal. I don’t see my peers’ fingernails and toenails falling off. While these all seem problematic to my life, there have been some deviations I would never want to give up. Not many people are told by strangers how much they are loved. Not many people have websites established in their honor with people all over the world promising devotion of their daily prayers. Not many people are regularly reminded to what magnanimous extent they are making others proud.
While this essay may seem pessimistic, that is not my intention whatsoever. My purpose is to emphasize the newfound appreciation I have for my “abnormal” life. Because without this disease’s impact on my life, I may still be blinded from some of the world’s most genuine gifts like most teenagers today. I have learned now to see each new day as a privilege because not everyone has the opportunity to live so freely. Most girls my age infest their brains with thoughts of peer influence, boys, and materialism… if I could say one thing to those girls it would be to enjoy living simply, while you can. I worry I did not take advantage of the times when my biggest concern was how I was going to spend my Friday night. While I am grateful to have a better grasp on the true ingenuities of life, I still do hold some jealousy of the girls that live without a real care in the world.
I guess you could say there are varying definitions of the word “normal.” Webster’s Dictionary defines normal as “conforming to the standard or common type.” Since when has life become about “conforming” to what is “standard”? My newfound description of what normal should be is “living to breathe, not breathing to live” regardless of what else could be going on. Despite the fact I am a teenager battling stage four Ewing’s Sarcoma, I am still living and breathing at this moment and that is normal.