Things Can Change

Colleen Burke, Opinion Editor

Sometimes… Well, often, it feels like things can’t ever get better. But things can change. They can become better and amazing… They can speak to you and help you grow if you just give it time. Most of the time if something bad happens, or you get bad news you automatically think “this is the end” or “it’s only downhill from here.”

That isn’t true.

Every experience, no matter the severity of good or bad, can be beneficial. Onions make you cry when you’re cutting them, and it hurts like hell, but they also can make one hell of a meal. It can be difficult to distinguish a line of whether or not an experience is worth it, but usually you can take at least one good thing away from it. Trust me, I know.

I was feeling neglected, like my family was simply no longer a real family. I was in despair, which was only made worse at the discovery of breast cancer’s insidious presence in my mother. I had known people who had cancer, known people who had known people with cancer, even my aunt had cancer – but I had never seen it up close and experienced it first hand. As per my stubborn personality, I refused to believe it. I attempted to refute any piece of evidence the doctor presented me with… I used statistics, illusory correlation, and case studies of a random individual who had negative connections to my mother. When the truth finally wound up and punched me in the face I immediately jumped to the worst case… Which one can imagine would be a somewhat typical response especially for an over-emotional teenage girl going through her last two years of high school.

It took me a while to come out and tell someone, and when I did it happened to be someone I had only just met. It seemed easier that way, they didn’t see me regularly and the information couldn’t plague our friendship with pitied hugs and sad glances. That person essentially aided me in the early stages of not only coping with it, but also in being there for my mother. And we became friends because of it. And because of him I was able to grow closer to my mother again and to sit in the hospital with her when she needed me.

Hospitals are atrocious. They are busy and smell like old people and scare the living shit out of me. It is weirdly hard for me to sit in a hospital for more than five minutes without crying, maybe because I flat out thought that they were a place where people went to die. That, I learned, wasn’t true either. In our wing everyone was hooked up to these beeping machines and had lines attached to these things implanted in their bodies, it felt like these people were simply being refueled at a gas station but they were really being poisoned in order to heal. But these people… They were optimistic and laughed and shared stories about their youth and whoever was with them always had a smile on their face and sympathetic yet hopeful eyes. You could tell that everyone was rooting for each other even though they were all strangers before they got sick. In a way, cancer bonded people.

My neighborhood banded together to set up a program for my mother. Meals every day so she didn’t have to cook or worry about her family not having food. Her friends set up a schedule to take her to appointments so she never had to be alone. I’ve never seen something like that. It took the whole village, but we kept her going. We got her through chemotherapy – one of the most taxing and treacherous things someone may have to go through. It’s long hours at a hospital accompanied by hair loss, weight loss, nausea… But she did it because of this. And she may not be done, because radiation is next, but she will finish strong due to these people.

To be honest I had lost any form of religion or clarity or faith in humanity… I thought if there was someone watching out for us why would all these terrible things happen to such a miraculous woman. But this happening to her made her stronger, more of a role model, even more amazing than she already was. Not only that, but I realized that no matter what, there is hope. People are still good. Things can go right even if they start out bad.

No one wants to go through something like this, and of course I wish it never happened. But I do look on it as something that taught me responsibility, faith, religion, a new found appreciation for people, and most of all a better relationship with my incredible and durable mother.

Things can and will get better. Look towards the horizon and you just might be able to see the sun rising.