This college admissions essay, penned by 17-year-old Samantha Stephens, offers a powerful and poignant reminder of the impact a cancer diagnosis can have on a patient’s family and caregivers. The author is the daughter of Peggy Stephens, who was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer when Samantha was 11. Peggy currently serves as Secretary of the IBC Foundation Board of Directors.
I was eleven. She, forty-three. My world spun a full circle right before my eyes as I was grasping for any chance of stability. When my mind finally focused on reality, all that rushed through my confused little brain was “why?” Why was this happening and why now? Why did she have to suffer through this while the rest of us just watched? Watched her slowly die.
Cancer. What an ugly word. If I was an abnormal cell eating away at the human body that’s what I would want to be called. Cancer.
Not a day went by that I didn’t feel guilty/helpless for what she had to endure. Not a second passed that I wasn’t worrying about her health. For four months and 103 days, the only thought ever running through my mind was “Cancer.”
Chemotherapy. Treatment that no one should ever have to endure. An ugly chemical that should never enter the body. Chemotherapy.
A night did not pass that I wasn’t awakened by the awful sounds of vomiting or moaning. Nights were the hardest. The darkness sucked in all the high-spirited/uplifting thoughts and turned them into reality. But you could always count on the day. Sunshine brought more than just happiness; it brought a kind of hope that you don’t feel very often. Most days you would never know what was happening inside her. She was stronger than it. Stronger than the disease, stronger than anyone.
Radiation. Think sunburn times 10,000. Radiation.
For five weeks she was in another state, another time zone, another universe, having electromagnetic waves passing into her body. For five weeks she was away from home, sick and alone. The obstacle God gave her was one of the hardest ever given to a human being. But her faith and courage gave her the strength to push through and come back home to me.
“I’m good, I’m fine, I’m fabulous.” The words my mom repeated every day, trying to convince us and herself that she would stay with us for just a little bit longer.