Life After the Bell, an essay by NNCCF kiddo, Landen
On January 15th, 2021, I rang the bell that I believed signified the end of it all. The end of the battle, the struggle, the chaos, and the pain. I believed this bell let everyone know about my victories and my accomplishments throughout this hectic journey. Finally, I believed this bell was a ticket. Not just any ticket, but a ticket that allowed me to escape the hospital that had been my life for ten months. Maybe I was naïve in thinking that this bell was magical and all powerful, but it gave me hope. I would walk past this bell every time I got the treatments that would physically and mentally destroy me, knowing that one day, I would ring it. I imagined myself upon a great hill with this bell in my hands screaming, “VICTORY!” but, when the day finally came, not much changed.
I had already endured five surgeries, twelve blood transfusions, seventeen rounds of chemotherapy, and two months of radiation. I had already “passed” my scans and received the “no evidence of disease” text that my mom had stayed up all night praying for. What people don’t understand about cancer, and especially childhood cancer, is that the battle doesn’t stop after the bell. People hear about the hospital stories while receiving chemo or the “fun times” down at the radiation clinic. Yet, few people take notice to the fight that takes place after chemo and radiation, or as my one of my fellow cancer survivors called it, the life after the bell.
This phrase, “the life after the bell,” signifies more than just trying to get back to normalcy because cancer survivors will never be “normal” again. We will always wonder about relapse or having to return to the hospital. We will battle aftereffects of the toxic drugs that were used to save our lives. The thought always in the back of our minds that our days are now limited. The main drug used in chemotherapy for many different types of cancers, Doxorubicin affects the heart very negatively. Me and my fellow teenage cancer survivors have hearts of 30 to 40-year-olds thanks to this treatment. We fight day after day to remain healthy. There’s an ongoing treatment after the BIG treatment. We keep going in for scans and blood work every three months. We take numerous pills to keep that monster out of our bodies. We spend hundreds of hours doing physical therapy to regain as much movement as we can. For some of us, all these precautions and treatments aren’t enough. Some of us, like my mentor and friend, Katie, find a way to relapse. She is now in her second battle with Ewing’s Sarcoma.
We live life after the bell differently then we lived before. We make the most of it because we all know that life may change in an instant. My friends tell me I have too much energy when really, I have no energy, but I keep going. I want to keep living and keep experiencing life. I am blessed to wake up every day and be able to move freely without cancer holding me back. I go out every day for those who can’t. I speak for all the children that can’t speak for themselves.
I was recently a part of a Capitol Hill Day project with the Northern Nevada Children’s Cancer Foundation that allowed me to speak to some of our state representatives, to try and raise funds for childhood cancer research. Events like these are very important when it comes to raising awareness for the struggles that innocent kids go through.
Although cancer sucks, it has brought some amazing things into my life. It has made me appreciate the little things and to be more carefree. To be almost stripped away of your life allows you to see the bigger picture. I realized that what matters in life, it isn’t being the best basketball player or getting the best grade in the class. What matters is truly living and making memories with those you love. My generation struggles so much over things that don’t matter like our phones, our grades, or who has more followers on Instagram. My experience has allowed me to live life better than I did before, and for that, I appreciate what I’ve learned from this journey. Now I will continue to keep making memories and living for those who can’t. The best life I could possibly live, will be the life after the bell.