Josalin Dunn

Josalin Dunn

Cancer. We all know someone who has it or we know someone who knows someone who has it. Either way, it’s a subject that is kind of taboo. Firstly, the majority of the population think when they first hear the big C-word is that you’re going to be bald, you only get cancer when you’re old and you probably (hopefully not) will die.

Well, I’m telling you right now that not all of that applies to every single person with cancer. Everyone’s story is different. So from the perspective of a 19-year-old girl who has been battling cancer for 11 years, here are ten things that happen when you are diagnosed with cancer.

1. People are going to ask if you are OK over and over and over.

I mean, can you blame them? What else do you say to someone who just told you they have a mass of mutating cells in their body? That sucks? Sorry? There’s really no good response. So be patient with this recurring question because it is going to happen a lot.

2. You’re not going to want to tell people about your diagnosis.

For the sake of wanting to be normal, I don’t always express to people about my disease. As soon as the C-word comes out of your mouth, their jaws drop and their eyes get big. If you’re in a room full of people, all heads turn and they just stare at you with these pitiful, puppy dog eyes. From that point on, people treat you a little differently. They try helping you with simple tasks as if you’re incapable. The almost give you special treatment which can be a little annoying sometimes, but on the other hand, can have its benefits, which brings me to my next example.

3. Cancer perks.

Need to get out of a date? Cancer. Miss an important deadline. Cancer. Want to eat an ungodly amount of calories without feeling guilty about it? Cancer. The possibilities are endless! Never again do you have to use the “My dog ate my homework” or “Wow, that traffic was awful” excuse because you have just been gifted with the number one excuse of all excuses. Once you throw it out there is nothing anyone can say about it.

4. You’re going to spend hours upon hours inside of scans.

Or for me, it was a bed away from my bed. Pop some headphones in my ears to drown out the loud noise and I was asleep within minutes (my technicians are always amazed at this feat). It’s going to be loud. It’s going to be uncomfortable staying absolutely still for two hours straight. But hey, it needs to be done, so make the best of it. Wear some fuzzy socks to your appointment, ask for a warm blanket and take a little siesta while the doctors do their thing.

5. Needles are a daily occurrence.

Have a fear of needles? Yeah, you should get over that real quick. You’re going to be poked and prodded so many times your arms will look like they belong to a heroin addict. Some nurses get id one with one poke. If you’re like me and have veins that roll, nurses will poke you three or four times while they are digging in your arm trying to “fish” for your vein. Gross, right It’s never a comfortable event. So find one of those cheese paintings in the room to stare at, squeeze your friend’s hand, take deep breaths and it will be over before you know it.

6. Cranberry juice will be your best friend.

Chemo makes the best of foods your puke bucket’s next victim. There are still some foods to this day that I can’t even smell or I will get nauseous with the memory of seeing it after it was half digested. Cranberry juice was the only thing I could ingest during chemo without getting sick. That and chicken fingers from Applebee’s. I’m telling you, cranberry juice works wonders!

7. You’re going to have the most stylish head ever!

Look in my closed and I have some pretty hefty boxes full of all things related to head accessories. Hats, bandanas and wigs, you name it! This is a great opportunity to experiment with that hair style or color that you never had the nerve to do with your real hair, but now you have endless options of wigs to suit your fancy. You can totally rock that hot pink pixie cut and no one can judge you because you have cancer and you do what you want.

8. You’ll joke about cancer more than you’re serious about it.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times my brothers would do something like punching me in the arm in public and I would say loudly, “Ow! That’s my cancer!” They would then look around the room with red faces and say to me, “Be quiet, Jos! That’s not even where your cancer is!” Makes me laugh every time.

9. You’re going to have the best support system.

When you have cancer, you get tons of things, and I mean tons. Balloons, teddy bears, cads, etc. Oh my gosh, the cards. They’re never ending. Being a typical seven-year-old,  I was ecstatic when I got things in the mail. When I was able to go home, I would diligently watch the clock until it hit one p.m., and I would race down the driveway and wait for the mailman to come and give me the mail that contained at least three cards for me. From that kid you talked to once in second grade, to a family member you never knew existed, they’ve all got your back. Even though most of your friends and family don’t know what you’re going through, a lot of people do. Go venture the halls of the hospital. Find some support groups or forums online. There you can find some people who are going through exactly what you’re going through, and what do ya know? You just made a new friend!

10. You’re going to have some pretty awful days.

There’s going to be days that you don’t even want to get out of bed because you feel so awful. There’s going to be days you look in the mirror at your bald head and wonder how anyone could ever think you’re beautiful. There’s going to be days you’re lying there hooked up to all these machines while you see your friends on social media hanging out with each other and living life. It’s OK to have those days, because you know what? Cancer sucks. It really sucks. Take your rainy day once in a while, but wake up the next day, look at yourself in the mirror in your bald-headed glory and tell yourself how awesome you are. You’re battling cancer and still look this fierce? Dang girl. You’re pretty freaking awesome.

Contributor Josalin Dunn is currently a student at Brigham Young University, studying Special Education with a goal in mind to attend Graduate School to become an Occupational Therapist. She discovered her love of helping those with special needs while volunteering in a facility in Provo. She believes in living life to its fullest.

This piece originally appeared in an online magazine called Odyssey Beta.