My name is Raven Curry and I am 21 years old. One thing that is not apparent but makes me stand out from others is that I am a childhood cancer survivor. At the age of 22 months, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I underwent 2.5 years of chemotherapy. I lost all of my hair, had multiple spinal taps, and went on a Make-A-Wish trip during this time.
Since I was so young, I can only remember very specific things about being sick. One thing I can remember is being in a room alone on an examination table watching Scooby Doo movies on TV. Another memory that stuck with me was when my great-grandmother visited and brought me my first slinky toy.
I do remember my Make-A-Wish trip: I chose to see Mickey Mouse, so my family was sent to Florida so I could do just that. I was completely blessed with what I was given and able to do. I received multiple large stuffed animals of Disney characters that were delivered to my house (I still have them to this day). During the visit, we stayed in a house in a little town-like area, and each morning, I would wake up to a surprise. One surprise was a Dr. Seuss baton, and I think I discovered it while eating cereal. I also remember the trash cans in the town area. They were elephants that made noise and sucked the trash through their trunks. I visited all of the characters at Disney as well. I took a signature book and just had to have signatures from each character. I wish I could remember more.
Something I’ve been told about myself is that I was very mischievous as a child… but in a good way. I spent my early years in and out of hospitals with adults, so I brought fun to every occasion. I would use the call buttons on hospital beds to order McDonald’s from nurses. I also thought it was really funny to copy everything my doctors said. My doctors and childlife crew did their best to spoil me while I was sick. To this day, even after all I went through, the people in my healthcare team are still angels to me. The childlife crew were, and still are, my friends. They were some of my first friends, and I am thankful that they still work at the hospital where I have my follow-up appointments. I am now in a late-effects clinic. I go each year to give updates on how I am doing and if anything has changed in my quality of life. I am blessed to say that I have not had any significant late-effect problems, and I hope it continues to stay this way.
I do think, as far as late-effects are concerned, that cancer has impacted my life. As a pediatric survivor, I do view my life differently from my peers now as a young adult. I think I am more appreciative of small things, and I think this may stem back to my childhood. I constantly hear from my peers, “Wow, I have never heard someone think that way,” or “Wow, you appreciate the smallest things in life.” I think this all stems back to having a different childhood. I was in a different environment than most people could ever understand. I think I am so appreciative to be alive and that nobody would notice I was ever sick. I also believe I have a purpose. I believe I was healed for something larger and greater that God has planned for me.
I think that being a sick kid has had both positive and negative impacts on my adult life. In the positive aspects, I have accomplished so much that I am so very proud of. I was predicted to have tons of learning disabilities from the treatment plan I followed…but I graduated with a 4.7 GPA in high school and just graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. I think that being a pediatric survivor has fueled these accomplishments. I strive to prove the statistics wrong for what a childhood cancer survivor should look like and deal with.
As far as the negatives, well, I am an extreme germaphobe and a very anxious person. COVID has definitely not been easy on my nerves. I wash my hands and wear a mask all of the time in public. I do not touch door handles, and I do not touch items in stores unless I absolutely have to. I try to keep my hands to myself to prevent germ spreading. I think I am a bit compulsive with it, which is not a great feeling and is often embarrassing. I also feel anxious most of the time. I get anxious during tests, speaking to people, and more. I am terrified when trying to publicly speak. I am very much a perfectionist, and this makes me feel on-edge. Everything I do must be perfect in my mind because I have so much to prove. This mindset can be very toxic. I expect so much out of myself that I can be my worst enemy.
But as far as my parents are concerned, our relationship throughout the years has remained strong — they are my support system. I think they still worry about me and often try really hard to protect me from things. Overall, I am blessed to say I feel somewhat normal now. I will always carry my cancer history with me, and it only continues to make me stronger. I strive to make my younger self proud. I love sharing my story, and I love spreading awareness throughout the month of September: childhood cancer awareness month. #GoGold 💛🎗
By Raven Curry
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