Jessika Douglas is another Camp Sunshine Scholarship recipient. Read some of her thoughts on growing up with childhood cancer.
Instead of a childhood outdoors climbing trees and riding bikes I grew up in a hospital room. At age three I was diagnosed with T-cell ALL leukemia. For two years of my life I sat through countless blood transfusions, rounds of chemotherapy, and cranial radiation. I really did not know what was happening to my body other than I had some kind of disease that made my parents cry. However, the hospital became my new home and I explored it. My mother often tells me I would follow anyone in a lab coat. I enjoyed going to the lab with the nurses or seeing the other floors outside of the oncology ward. Other than the foul tasting medicine and the multitude of shots, life was grand.
It was not until I was able to go back to school that I realized I was different. One child asked me when I was going to die. The thought had never crossed my mind. I had no idea that I could die from cancer.
The damage from my cranial radiation and chemotherapy treatments slowly came into view as I got older. I could not run like the other kids, my ligaments were left weak and damaged in addition to balance problems. I became easily frustrated in my school work because the cranial radiation had damaged parts of my brain related to executive functioning. Simply being able to finish activities became a problem because of the chronic fatigue. At Camp Sunshine though, I was like everyone else. The warmth and acceptance of camp is something I wish I could share with everyone.
Having cancer at such a young age meant growing up faster than the typical kid. I watched some of my friends die of the very disease I had survived. Life is not fair, but I look at life as a gift. If someone asked me if I could change my past and not have had cancer, my response would be no. I would not be the person I am today without cancer. Because of cancer, I have a burning passion to go into the healthcare field. One of my dreams is to find the cure for cancer. Health Promotions opened doors that I originally though closed because of my disabilities. Health Promotions bridged the gap between my love of working with people and science. I dream to one day truly find the cure for cancer if not simply make the treatments more bearable. I won my battle with cancer. I choose to live my life to the fullest even with my disabilities for those who cannot. The faces of my friends that lost their battles with cancer are forever imprinted on my heart. I dream of when all of society will know about childhood cancer and be as loving and embracing as Camp Sunshine was to me.