Winning battle with brain cancer alters view on living


Courtesy of Avery Cummings

While undergoing cancer treatment, Avery Cummings, then 7 years old, hugs a nurse.

By Avery Cummings, Canyon HS, Canyon, Texas

The hospital room glowed white around me, the news of the diagnosis hanging grimly in the air.

I had barely turned 7 years old when I started to become incredibly sick. For one week, I threw up and slept endlessly. My parents began to worry. We traversed to the pediatrician, her eyes confused. We ended up going back and forth between the hospital and my pediatrician before we discovered the problem. Finally, the MRIs revealed a condition the doctors called pylocytic astrosytoma.

My parents told me it meant a tumor the size of a lemon resided close to my brain stem. In other words, I had brain cancer. Death was imminent. I remember the nurses braiding my hair tightly against my head so that they wouldn’t have to shave it off. I went into surgery the next day, May 5.

Eight years have passed since then. All that remains is a scar that runs from my neck to the top of my head. That scar was the beginning of a new truth. It brought me to the realization that we don’t decide when we die. It can happen anywhere, at any time, at any age. However, only years later did I realize this. It was then that I decided that I wasn’t going to live a life full of regret. I wanted to know that if I were to die at that moment, I would have a mind that was at peace and a heart that beat not only out of necessity, but beat out of happiness.

To know that you could leave this world at any second, regardless of who you are or how healthy you are can change a person’s perspective on life.”

I continue to live with this mindset. To know that you could leave this world at any second, regardless of who you are or how healthy you are can change a person’s perspective on life. I see life as an important gift that we must cherish for as long as we can. It is okay to cry and feel anger, but we shouldn’t let those emotions run our lives.

Several years later, an acquaintance of mine died of cancer at age 22. One year later, another friend of mine died of cancer. She was 12. It was then that I fully began to see how lucky I had been. I didn’t have to suffer through chemo. I didn’t need a wheelchair. I didn’t need to pick out a nice wooden coffin or words for my epitaph. Since then, I’ve finalized yet another choice. I won’t hate life for the evil people or the grief that filled it. I won’t focus on death, but on the gift of life.

No one is immortal, and to escape death once is a miracle. I’ve always had trouble understanding why people refuse to believe that death is real. It is going to happen at one point in time, and there is no escaping it then. The majority of people simply live to survive instead of enjoying every second. The world possesses no physical or emotional ability, so it cannot be awful. It is all how you view it. Only you can make the world ugly. Only you can make the world look beautiful. Only you can make yourself depressed. Only you can make yourself happy.

Death will happen eventually. Somehow, someway, we will all leave this world. That is a fact. Some people choose to let it affect them negatively. Others see it as something positive — a new beginning. It is your choice and your choice alone as to how it affects you. Life is important, yes, but death is just as important. Make your life worth it. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. Do what you want to do. Devote yourself to something that means everything to you, whether it is a person you love, your faith, your country, sports or music. I’ve found my devotion to writing, music and a person whom I love more than anything. That is what I live for. And that is what I’d die for.

Life will do what it wants. It’s like the rebel child of the family. It will decide whether it wants to be short or long. So it is up to us to make it worth however few or however many seconds we live. It is up to no one but you to live a life worth living.

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