Monday, March 30, 2015

Show & Tell Day - Paige Shares Her Writing

Before I entered the world of technology integration, writing instruction was my game.  Over the last year, the writing teacher in me resurfaced as I worked with Paige on various assignments during her homebound time.  I didn't realize how much I missed working with students in this capacity--getting them to realize their best writing happens when drawing from personal experience is priceless. 
Suffice it to say, Paige has experienced more than her share over the last 14 months--and she has used it to bring forth some pretty great writing.  Considering she spent today taking an English exam, I thought it would be fitting to share some of Paige's writing--with her approval, of course.  First up, a sonnet written early in the battle.  Following it is an essay written this winter, when we reached the end of intense, frontline treatment--and about a month before Paige returned to school.  It's a bit lengthy, but well worth the read.  No closing statement necessary--my girl gets it just right. 


Love Will Win The Battle

The love our family shares is very strong;
Sometimes we need to let out a good cry. 
Together in this fight we all belong,
In the end we will spread our wings and fly.
The way my friends show their love is so dear;
They will send a cute message or sweet card. 
This reminds me they are still very near;
It also helps make tough days not so hard. 
God’s great love for our family knows no end; 
He proves this to us every single day.
He works through those who help my body mend;
When we need him most, all we do is pray.
Love all around will help me win this fight,
For my future will be healthy and bright.


A Journey Like No Other

Friday, January 10, 2014. A day my family and I will never forget. Before I go on, lets go back to December 2013. Coughs and chest pains sound like a normal kid in the winter, right? Thats what we thought too. Sleepless and scary nights barely being able to breathe revealed to us that an ER trip was necessary—ASAP! We waited and waited for an exam, and an x-ray showed a 16-centimeter mediastinal mass across my chest. Not only was the mass obstructing my airways, it was restricting blood flow to the point where I was as white as a piece of paper. Immediately I was rushed to surgery for a lymph node biopsy. They ultimately diagnosed me with T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). Chemotherapy started that night—and our life as a cancer family began. Months of treatments, procedures, transfusions, and more weakened my body so much there were days I couldn't even get off the couch without help. It has been a bumpy road, but I am getting healthier every day. The lessons I have learned on this journey have taught me not to be afraid of what comes my way, but to embrace each challenge as an opportunity. 

Faith. I have learned how to trust God in good times and bad. I can celebrate the fact that after ten months of intense chemo, I am officially in the maintenance phase of treatment—finally! That is definitely a good thing! On the other hand, there have been some very frightening side effects along the way. 

At one point I experienced symptoms of a stroke. I lost the feeling in my right arm, my feet felt so heavy I couldn't walk, and my speech became very slurred—all within ten minutes. It turned out to be a neurotoxicity reaction from the combination of a spinal tap and a 24-hour high-dose chemo.

Steroid therapy brought another bump in the road. It weakened my bones so much that a simple slip caused a hairline fracture on my leg. Pain medication, physical therapy, and a walking boot helped with the recovery process. In moments like these, I knew that God would pull me through whatever he was taking me through. In the end, He did—and my faith grew even stronger.

Courage. There is a quote made famous by Bob Marley: “You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice.” This is a perfect description of my journey. Strength, courage, and bravery—I have learned it all along the way.   

For instance, when my hair was coming out, I didn’t know what to do other than cry. My long, thick, luxurious dark brown hair got to the point where it was thin, dried out, and stringy. Sometimes it made me look sicker than I felt. My parents called it “chemo hair,” but I called it my “old-man biker hair” (no offense to bikers anywhere). I knew what I had to do. It was time to let the hair go. I got it shaved off, and though it was difficult to do, I looked much healthier and even got used to it after a while. Now its easier for me to be comfortable around my friends and family. You can occasionally find us making jokes about my lack of hair—which doesn’t come easy for a 14-year-old girl. 

My latest adventure, radiation, originally brought fears and tears. Wearing a tight mask and lying on a table with your eyes closed seems scary, right?  No matter how frightening it seemed, this preventive measure was a necessary part of my treatment. I pushed through with hope and strength—in the end, the process wasnt as bad as I thought it would be. Challenges like these helped me build a solid foundation of courage I will have the rest of my life.     

Friendship. I have learned to make new friends and keep the ones I have close. Even though my friends dont understand what Im going through, they can still help make it a little easier.  

One little boy I met has a fatal kind of fungal infection. In fact, there have only been a few other cases of this particular fungus, and no child has lived with it longer than five days. This warrior has gone over 50 days with it and is an inspiration to everyone. He has shown me not to be scared about little reactions when he is going through something 100 times worse. His strength is so much larger than his little body. 

In addition to strength, friends have shown me the importance of staying positive no matter what. A girl my age, who was diagnosed after me, fought a fungal infection that kept her in the hospital for eight months straight. She kept a good attitude about it and didnt spend her days complaining. Just a few weeks ago, her family received the news that the fungus had shrunk enough to allow her to finally escape the walls of the hospital and sleep comfortably in her own bed. I am so happy for her and grateful for the lessons I learned about staying positive when times get tough.

Throughout this journey, I have seen loyalty in the way my best friend has stuck by me. She comes over often and keeps me up on gossip, which helps me feel a little bit normal. Tagging along on clinic visits helps her see what Im going through. She taught me that friendship can hold two people together even in the toughest of times.      

With cancer comes fear, frustration, nervousness and more. However, I refuse to focus on the negatives. Treatment is rough, but my friends and family have been there for support every step of the way. Faith, courage, and friendship have been the equipment I needed to get me through this journey—and oh, what a journey it has been.

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