Ellora Amrit, a junior at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, won first-place honors in the cancer survivors division of the annual Write Stuff Teen Contest sponsored by Gilda’s Club Louisville. Through essays, poems and artwork, nearly 170 students in grades 6-12 from Kentucky and Southern Indiana reflected on what it’s like to live with cancer – dealing either with their own condition or someone close to them.
The organizers plan to compile the winning entries, along with some finalists, in a book to serve as a resource to affirm teens’ experiences, enhance their coping and build their resilience. Amrit was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 3. Below is the essay she wrote.
What I Learned From Cancer
Cancer. It is a collection of many diseases.
It is adaptive, malicious, and will try to extirpate almost any organ. It has been named, “The Emperor of All Maladies” and almost everyone knows someone who has been affected or has been affected themselves. It can leave people emaciated and hopeless.
But even though this horrible disease does so much harm, I believe we can all learn from this terrible disease. Here is what I have learned from cancer.
I had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) when I was 3 years old. It is the most common form of cancer in children and attacks immature white blood cells.
It happened so long ago that it almost feels like it didn’t happen to me. The only thing I have remaining from this time is a scar on the right side of my chest from when I had a portacath. But even to this day, I believe it is one of the biggest influences in my life.
Because of cancer I have found a love for biology and chemistry.
I love knowing how different types of chemotherapy were discovered. I used to use my own medical records to research different kinds of medicine and how they work. It is amazing how dedicated scientists can make such a difference.
Take Sidney Farber who is regarded as the “Father of Chemotherapy” and whose discovery of Aminopterin was able to produce short remissions in children with leukemia. He didn’t have much support from his colleagues during his research but through dedication, he discovered that antifolates were able to help induce remissions in leukemia patients.
People like Farber inspire me to be passionate about science and medicine and I do not think I would have found this inspiration without a curiosity in cancer that came from my own diagnosis.
Cancer has also taught be to find happiness in each day.
We have a picture of my dad and me during our stay at the Ronald McDonald house. Despite the grim time, we still look happy. Even if it was for a short time, we somehow found the ability to smile. This picture reminds me to smile even during hard times because it makes them more bearable.
This disease has also taught me compassion.
I always think how amazing it is how people can come together during terrible times. Even though we don’t necessarily know someone, we as humans have the ability to feel compassion for them. I am so grateful for the compassionate nurses and doctors who took care of me. I find it amazing how even though they didn’t know me, and didn’t know what I would grow up into, they still worked so hard to help me. I hope that one day I can do the same for someone.
Lastly, this disease has taught me gratitude.
I will always be grateful that I live in a country where I was able to receive help and I hope that one day I can help those who are not as fortunate. It has taught me to be thankful for every day I spend healthy and able to work.
I could never think of wasting a single day because I know that someone is not able to spend theirs the way they want to because of this disease. I am thankful that I have made peace with this disease and do not live in fear of it. Most of all I am thankful to have been in remission for well over 5 years, which, in the world of leukemia, is synonymous to being cured.
I think we all have a fear of the unknown.
We like to be informed of problems, and we like to be aware of our atmosphere. But that is not always possible in the world of cancer, which is why it is so fearful.
But as we look back through history, we can see how much progress has been made in this field, from discoveries of different types of chemotherapy, the identification of carcinogens and different screening techniques. The more we learn about something the less fearful it becomes, which is why I would like to keep learning in this field, because the more informed we are, the better treatment people can receive.
There is still so much to research and discover but we can take inspiration for the descendants of this field who believed in the power of humanity through learning and discovery. Through our compassion and curiosity as humans, we have the power to do amazing things for each other.
The nonprofit Gilda’s Club Louisville provides a place where children and adults affected by cancer can build social and emotional support as a supplement to medical care. The organization, which has more than 20 affiliates in North America, is named for comedian Gilda Radner, who died from ovarian cancer in 1989. Call (502) 371-3041 for more information.
From Tammy L. Lane, communications specialist and website editor for Fayette County Public Schools