Life throws at us many unexpected obstacles, things we never plan for. Things we doubt we can handle or that we would gladly avoid at all costs, but unfortunately we can't. Life doesn't work that way.
2010 has been a year that began with one of those unexpected obstacles for my family. My 14-year-old sister Madey was diagnosed with bone cancer.
When we first learned the diagnosis all I could think was that this couldn't be happening to our family. My sister was healthy and active, she couldn't possibly have cancer. But at the same time I realized that a nightmare in many ways had become our reality. Our world was turned upside down as we became familiar with hospitals, nurses and doctors. Although we are only three months into the treatments, I have already learned more medical terms and spent more time in the hospital than I ever wanted to.
Even though our fight against cancer thus far has been short, I have already learned some valuable lessons.
It's the small things that count
Madey is frequently at the hospital receiving treatment and our parents are often with her, leaving my other two siblings and I to take care of things at home. As we've all had to adjust to these absences, we've come to appreciate even more the short moments we are able to spend together. It doesn't matter what we are doing, what matters is that we are together. We take advantage of the time we have before Madey has to go back to the hospital. Some nights it's just sitting down for dinner with each other or watching a movie together, but it means a lot to each of us.
It's all right to laugh
When Madey was first diagnosed, I felt like I had to act sad. My sister had cancer, so of course I couldn't possibly be happy, but I quickly learned this wasn't true. Being sad doesn't magically change the situation, in fact, in many ways it just makes it worse.
Smiles and laughter make this difficult time more bearable. We often swap Laffy Taffy jokes or ask each other pointless questions like, "Would you rather have blue skin or live under the ocean?" or "If you were a doughnut, what kind would you be?" It's OK to have fun. Even when things are hard life goes on and we need to make the most of each moment.
Many hands make a burden light
The most amazing thing about our experience so far has been the generosity and caring of others. We couldn't do this without their help. We've received many meals and small acts of kindness. Concerned friends are constantly looking out for our family and checking up on Madey. Her junior high school basketball team dedicated their season to Madey and her school held a fundraiser for her. These acts of service mean more to our family than anyone will ever know. They've made what we have to go through more manageable.
Cancer is a scary thing full of many unknowns and uncertainties but because of the thoughtfulness of others, our reality is not a nightmare. I've personally come to appreciate life even more. We don't know what the future holds, but no matter what it is we need to remember what's truly important and continue smiling through it all because tomorrow will be a brighter day.
Hillary Slaughter is a junior at Layton High School. She loves reading, crafts and "the great outdoors." You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.