I know you are facing some really tough stuff right now. I know that at times, you feel pretty hopeless and tired. I know how terribly scared you are and I know how sick you feel. I know you feel discouraged and heartbroken and at times, totally alone in your fight. I know about the tears you cry when no one else sees you, I know about the pain, both physical and emotional, and I know how hard it is for you to lose the use of your left leg and to become crippled. I know you don’t think anyone will ever understand how you feel…trust me that I do.
I want you to know, and to never forget, that you are loved, and that the fight you are currently fighting will always be worth it. Your life is worth it. And I want you to know that you will make it through this battle, and come out a better person for it. Keep staying positive, despite every setback you face, including those week long hospital stays, the mouth sores, the infections, the immune system crashes and the fevers. Chemo is nasty and it will wipe you to within an inch of your life, but you will finish it and your hair will grow back! Learn to love every simple and small moment you have, never take anything for granted and don’t forget about the lessons you learn during this year. Get as involved as possible with the kids around you; even though you will experience the heartbreak of losing a lot them-they will change your life more then you could possibly hope to help them, and they will fuel your fire to keep fighting. Love them as much as you possibly can.
Be patient with your dad, he’s doing the best he can while mom is with you. He loves you and worries about you and wants you to be okay. Tell Juli how much her friendship means to you often, because it turns out that she’ll be the only true friend who sticks this year out with you. Don’t worry about the kids in high school who forget about you or who just stay around because of obligation they won’t matter in a couple of years and you will care less about where they go and what they think of you. You don’t need to value your worth on what other people say or think; you are the only one who can be a judge of that.
Listen to the doctors, because they know what is best, not you. Trust them; they are keeping you alive. They care about you as a person and will write you amazing college recommendation letters down the road. Don’t start walking on that knee until you get the okay! I know marching season seems like the ultimate goal right now, but getting your knee to heal is much more important!
Work hard in school, even math, and take solace in band. Do not let anyone’s comments about your limp, your cancer or your feelings get you down-they don’t understand and they won’t, so don’t waste your breath trying to explain. You will feel lonely, but remember that you aren’t alone. Count your blessings, name your miracles and I promise you that after high school, it will all get better.
Go to the ocean often, drive with the windows rolled down and sing lots of Death Cab for Cutie and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Read. Spend nights out on the back porch counting fireflies. Stand out in the summer rainstorms. Tell your grandmother that you love her.
College is going to change your life and who you are. You are going to make some of the best friends you will ever have and you are going to fall in love (the real kind) with your best friend. You are going to really figure out who you are and who you want to be, and you are going to start to love yourself again, and even better, you will start to love yourself because of your flaws, scars and imperfections. You are going to look back on these years and see God’s hand in this trial. Try to look for it now. He’s not going to leave you alone to fight this by yourself, so don’t be afraid to lean on him. He will never leave you comfortless.
Chelsabelle, I want you to know how proud I am of you and your determination to keep fighting the good fight. I know how hard it is to stay positive when your life is so drastically changed, but I’m glad you try your hardest to look for the silver lining. Keep choosing to be happy, and always remember that you are alive for a reason. Survivor’s guilt is tough stuff, and I’m sorry, but we’re still working on coping with that 10 years later. But I want you to know that you never have to apologize for feeling things, you are human and it is your right. It’s okay to cry about the things you have lost, but don’t dwell too much on it. I know how tired your body is, but I promise you that when the time is right, and when the technology advances, you will have the opportunity to get most of your life back. You will get your knee replacement. It will be another long fight, but as always, it will be worth it. It will change everything.
You will never be able to turn your back completely on this year. You will always have to look over your shoulder to make sure you are still clear. You will continue to deal with the guilt and the anxiety and PTSD and there are days where you will have to force yourself out of bed and face that day. But I promise you that one day, you will be thankful for this trial. You will see how it was necessary and needed to help you become who you are today, and you will love it for that. Hold on to that.
In ten years, you will be walking limp free again and I know that seems utterly impossible right now, but it will come. Your pain will be manageable. You will have taught English in China for 6 months and you will have CLIMBED the Great Wall. You will get married to the man of your dreams, who loves you despite your scars and your past. You will become a fur mama to the sweetest golden retriever in the world. You will be a 10-year survivor.
Your life is beautiful. You are beautiful. Hold on to what you know and stay true to yourself. Believe in miracles and you will see them. Say your prayers. Tell your family you love them. Write often and read even more. Learn languages. Set goals and then work hard to achieve them. This is YOUR life, and no one else’s. You can do whatever it is you set your mind to and nothing will stop you or change that, not even cancer. I believe in you.
Want to catch up on the whole cancer thing? Check out these posts:
What would you tell your 16-year-old-self if you could?