Sorry, this won’t be a fun, inspirational movie story… but here we go anyway.
My name is Selena and I’m 21 years old. Back in August 2016, after 8 years of misdiagnosis, I was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare type of soft tissue cancer in my right foot, luckily nonmetastatic. I was 16 and just about to start my senior year of high school. I was absolutely devastated.
25 rounds of harsh radiation and a reconstructive surgery later I was declared cancer-free, which I’ve been since. Unfortunately, last December, I received a second cancer diagnosis. I’m currently fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I’m on my second chemo protocol after one failed. I can definitely say this time around has been a lot harder emotionally and physically. So much frustration, anxiety, nausea, hair loss, mouth sores, bone pain, fatigue, needles, needles, and more needles. A lot of why me? Why me…
Hearing the words “you have cancer again” come out of my oncologist’s mouth, I couldn’t believe it. I just blanked. I didn’t even cry. I immediately went into a numb phase that I’m not quite sure I’m even out of yet. I felt totally out of touch with reality like it had to be a joke. I was about to turn 21, start a new school and have my very first apartment in the city with my best friend. I was so excited to finally start “real” life. But no, I had to get sick instead. I felt like I was back to square minus a hundred. After years of mental recovery from my first cancer, here we were again. The worst part is, I had absolutely no control over it. That’s the hardest part of cancer, not having control.
I’ve always been the kind of person who thought “everything happens for a reason” but I’m not going to lie, this time, I don’t see it. I didn’t need the trauma.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still so grateful for my body. For being alive today. I’m still so proud of who I have become. For the compassionate, humble, and strong human being, I am now. But I miss her. A lot. I miss the old innocent Selena, who saw beauty in everything. Being diagnosed with 2 types of cancer before the age of 20 completely changes your perspective on life. It makes you realize how unfair and fragile life truly is. It makes you think things no 20 years old should even be near thinking about. For me, one of the hardest parts is feeling so disconnected from people my age, or what they worry or care about. I feel like I’m missing out on so much.
Even though the fight will never really be over, I want to take this day as an opportunity. An opportunity to celebrate how far we AYA fighters have come. How difficult it is to experience this in such a crucial part of life. When all you are trying to do is find yourself. How hard it is to have to fight each and every day, even when being strong is the last thing we feel. When everything feels out of touch. When, even if cancer treatments are over, nothing goes back to the way it was.
To all my AYA fighters and survivors, you are valid. You are beautiful and most importantly you are not alone. It might seem impossible to see the light and it might take a while to find it again. But I swear it is there, somewhere. Life after cancer is hard but not impossible.
By Selena Laprise