By Brendan Dawson, VI Form
Cancer tried to defeat me, but I fought back. In the summer of 2011 I became thyroid cancer’s latest victim at the young age of 14. I experienced a wide variety of emotions throughout the next year. An enthusiastic, confident, active eighth grader vanished, and a mortified, timid ninth grader emerged. My uncertain future was now in the hands of the various doctors at Children’s Hospital in Boston. Life as I once knew it had abruptly ended, and I fought the challenge of a lifetime to win it back.After a series of unnerving ultrasounds and biopsies, the doctors diagnosed me with papillary thyroid carcinoma that had spread to many lymph nodes. These results prompted a ten-hour surgery removing my cancerous thyroid gland and various lymph nodes nearby. A sense of helplessness emerged. Following the major surgery in July, I faced many challenges. Forced to depend on my family to complete the smallest of tasks, I could do almost nothing without guidance. I experienced pain every time I adjusted my view, and physical weakness prevailed. My mindset was one of negativity, as I feared for my life. I despised the effect I had on others. I hated that my condition caused anxiety amongst my family and friends. The people close to me knew I was vulnerable, which added to my distress. I needed something I could look forward to when I climbed out of this ditch. I craved a sense of hope, and in order to gain this I needed to remind myself what I was fighting for.
I wanted my life back. I was fighting to be the “normal,” competitive, outgoing high school freshman that I had intended to be. I wanted to start my new school with confidence and without a stigma attached to my name. I needed to get strong in order to play the varsity sports I had worked so hard to be a part of. My mindset had to be positive to succeed academically in school. These became my goals and kept me focused for the next five months during recovery, radiation treatment and scans. My dad and I created a visible sense of hope by posting a list of the things I planned to work towards and accomplish as I recovered from cancer. This became a vital part of my recovery. I received a sense of satisfaction as I checked things off the list that I was able to participate in or had completed. I was fighting to get my old life back and I was slowly making progress. Playing varsity soccer, hockey and baseball were a few of my biggest accomplishments during this time. With the right workout regimen and dietary plan, I was able to gain enough strength to compete at a high level. My grades were solid, despite the number of days of school that were missed throughout this process. I began to feel like a teenager again rather than a cancer patient.
The next year and every spring since my diagnosis have been spent overcoming hurdles related to my health. The goals I had set kept me focused and challenged. My visible goal list provided me with the power of positive thinking and mental toughness, lessons that have molded the personality I harbor to this day. I understand the true meaning of giving something all you have in order to succeed. Facing adversity has helped me develop a strong work ethic in school, sports, and my summer job. My experiences fighting thyroid cancer have taught me how to persevere in order to achieve my goals. In addition, I have a new and improved outlook on life. I am grateful for everything I have, especially my life.
Brendan Dawson is a VI Form day student from Medway, Massachusetts. He enjoys playing golf, baseball, and hockey.