Forever

by Olivia, age 14
Forever

“She’s virtually dead. She doesn’t feel the need to live. When you don’t have the motivation, you don’t live. She doesn’t have the will to live.”

Often the worst news comes right when you’re least expecting it, like how great people always die right in the prime of their lives. Harry Houdini, the amazing magician, claimed he could take a hit to the stomach and survive. A man decided to prove it, and punched him in the stomach before Houdini had even prepared for the blow. He was suffering from appendicitis at the time, and was just about to go on one of his spectacular shows. After the man hit him many times in his already weakened stomach, Harry continued on with several of his shows even with a ruptured appendix and a high fever. He died soon afterward. It was unfair, but that’s how life works.

My bad news came like a blow to the stomach during my second year in middle school. I had been playing basketball in the dim, hot gym that reeked of sweat from games fought and won, when a sharp pain stabbed the side of my knee. My leg buckled from underneath me, but I caught myself and continued on, shooting basket after basket and dodging the opposing team. A few minutes later, the sharp pain started up again, but I ignored it and kept on playing, despite my slight limp. The soft whoosh of a basketball flying through the net calmed me down, and I soon forgot about the strange pain I had felt.

 

My mother called out to me from the living room, “How was your day, honey?” I slammed the door shut behind me.

“It was fine,” I shouted back.

“Are you sure? Is anyone hurting you? Are your teachers okay?”

I rolled my eyes at the usual string of concerned questions. “Yes, I’m sure.” I ran up the stairs and into my room before my mother could ask me anything else, and flopped down onto my bed. And all of a sudden, the odd discomfort came back to my knee, causing me to wince and curl up into a ball on my bedsheets. The pain faded away after about ten minutes, and I bent over to inspect the spot. It seemed a bit swollen, as if someone had punched it and  it was now bruised. I thought back to my day in school.

Maybe I had bumped into something, or maybe during gym I… my thoughts trailed off as I remembered gym class. There, the pain had happened to me too. I rolled over on my stomach and stared at the wall in front of me. The wallpaper was adorned with golden swirls, and matching white and gold furniture sat around me. I pushed myself off of the bed and walked over to my desk, where I sat down and pulled out my backpack to start homework. But even as I tried to calculate math problems and write essays, my mind kept wandering back to what ifs, and maybes. I couldn’t concentrate. Sighing, I put everything away.

“A break might help,” I muttered to myself. So saying, I promptly collapsed onto my bed once again. Soon enough, the wall became the ceiling and the ceiling became the sky and everything was nothing at all.

 

“Stephanie? Stephanie! Dinner’s ready!” My mother’s harsh voice interrupted my sleep, grating against my mind, and I jolted awake. Ever since I was little, she has always been there, watching my every move and aggravating me enough to almost always spark an argument.

“I-I’m coming!” I shouted back, blinking rapidly to clear my head. I rushed to the staircase and ran down, leaping down two steps at a time. I abruptly grasped the side handlebar to steady myself, as a wave of pain radiated out from my knee. I wrinkled my forehead in concern, but decided to ignore it, as the soreness had already partially dissipated. By the time I got downstairs, the round table in the center of the kitchen was already set and heaping with every food imaginable–typical of my mother. My father was sitting placidly, his short black hair sticking up in various directions.

“Come, sit,” he called to me. Seeing the grimace on my face, he asked, “Is everything alright?”

“Oh, everything’s okay,” I answered, trying to hide the look on my face. I didn’t want to worry my father, who was always so sympathetic and kind to me.

“Okay, just checking. Why don’t you come sit while we wait for your mother to join us?” he suggested. I nodded and began to sit down, when the ache in my knee started up yet again. I gasped and fell to the ground, hugging my knees to myself.

What is this? Why does it keep happening to me? I thought, frustrated. And why isn’t it going away? Before, the hurt had gone away quickly, and I had forgotten about it as soon as it went away. Now, the ache was staying for longer and longer, and it felt as if it was coming from my bone, pushing up towards the surface like a swimmer desperate for air. Except the swimmer was determined to hurt me, so it punched every inch of flesh it could reach along the way.

“Stephanie! Steph! Steph?” My dad clumsily pushed back his chair and hurried over to my vulnerable form, huddled on the kitchen floor. “What happened? Answer me!”

“I-I’m alright, Dad. I just-” My eyes squeezed shut again and I inhaled sharply as the tortuous agony began again.

“Sarah!” At the urgent tone of my father’s voice, my mother ran into the kitchen, her hazel eyes widening and her lipstick-ringed mouth puckered up in a small circle. Everyone was moving, but all I felt was fear. Fear of what was happening to me, fear that maybe I had done something wrong in my life and now I was going to die young. All at once, I felt my head spinning and before I knew it, I had passed out.

 

“What monkey put left?”

“For now, you should table her rest.”

“We diagnosed her, and…”

Gradually, my vision cleared and the gibberish I thought the doctors were saying turned into comprehensible sentences.

“She’s awake! Oh, Steph…” My mother’s face was a mess of tears and troubled creases. She burst into tears and ran out of the room. Just her dramatic exit made me want to roll my eyes and sigh impatiently at her, like I do almost every day. After another couple minutes with nurses nervously glancing around at the beeping machines and the sterile, blindingly white room, one of them stepped forward.

“Stephanie, I’m afraid to tell you that — I’m really sorry — you have osteosarcoma,” she said quietly.

I tilted my head and cleared my throat, already feeling sick with worry. “Sorry, what was that?”

“Bone cancer.”

I closed my eyes. This is what it is. This is what I came here for. This is what all the pain was for. I understood, and I started to cry. Silently, each of the nurses exited the room. I wanted to shout to them, to ask them not to leave me. But no sound came out of my mouth, and so I placed my head back on my tear-soaked pillow and closed my eyes again, one final tear leaking out and staining my cheek.

 

After that final teardrop, I didn’t cry again. I had shed all of my tears, and now I couldn’t cry anymore. I still couldn’t accept the fact that I had cancer, so I tried to block the thought out of my head. I lived without living, nodded when my doctor told me something, ate when they told me to eat, and slept when there was nothing else to do. And yet that stabbing pain was constantly there, haunting me and reminding me that I had a fatal disease and that I could never get away from it. I never played the sports I used to adore playing anymore, and never spoke to any of my friends anymore. Apart from the occasional get-well card, I was cut off from the world I used to live in. Now my friends were replaced with adults wearing masks and long coats, my usually busy life and many hobbies replaced with constantly sleeping on a narrow, firm cot. I didn’t pay attention to anything, and my normally vivid mind became dull and never interested.  My parents occasionally visited me, and whenever I saw them I would beg them to stay, never leave me again, and to stay with me because I was afraid. That was the only feeling I felt anymore. And every night, when I fell asleep, I slept longer and longer, yet my sleep became lighter and more restless. Slowly, I was slipping away from the world.

 

One of the only other vivid memories I had was here at the hospital, a couple weeks after I had first arrived. I had been staring aimlessly at the ceiling, when a nurse tapped on my door, cracked it open, and snuck into the room. Gently closing the door behind her, she approached my bed and peered at me over her rectangular glasses perched on the tip of her nose.

“Stephanie?”

“Hmm?”

“It appears that you are to receive chemotherapy?” The statement, worded like a question, took me by surprise. My overbearing mother must have requested the medication for me, and I shook my head angrily. Chemotherapy seemed like something only cancer patients had. Even though I knew I had cancer, it didn’t seem like it was real. It felt like I was living a dream, or someone else’s life, someone who just happened to have cancer.

“Your treatment is to start tomorrow morning, and…” the nurse mumbled something under her breath and shot me a look full of pity, then quickly left the room. Four hours afterward, the same word echoed through my head: chemotherapy, chemotherapy, Chemotherapy, CHemotherapy, CHEMotherapy, CHEMOTHErapy, CHEMOTHERAPY, CHEMOTHERAPY, until it enveloped my mind and was all that I could think about. Nothing made sense anymore.

 

The doctor who came to inject something into my veins was gentle and kind. This treatment made me lose my hair, lose my appetite, and lose my mind. It made my cancer feel better, but it made me feel worse.

I heard from whispered discussions nurses held outside my door that other cancer patients could go home between treatments, and that they had caught my cancer too late. I didn’t understand them. I didn’t understand anyone. I could hear what they were saying, but I didn’t comprehend it; I was too afraid, and tired, and just dead to the world.

 

I don’t want to live anymore. Life is too hard. Life is not worth living. This was what I repeated to myself, over and over until I was numb, every time the shock of what I was going through hit me again.

 

“Steph, how are you doing?” My mom entered the room, dark shadows circling her bloodshot eyes.

“Just go away.”

“Why are you always so angry at me? I try my best to be a good mother, and I don’t even know what to do anymore.”

“A good mother? A GOOD MOTHER? WHAT GOOD MOTHER DOESN’T LET HER OWN CHILD GO ANYWHERE WITHOUT GOING CRAZY AND INTERROGATING HER? AND BY THE WAY, THIS CANCER? IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.” In a fit of uncontrolled and unreasonable rage, I screamed at her and was startled to see tears slipping out of the corners of her eyes.

“I’m sorry, honey.” She turned and stepped out of my room, her head down and cheeks flushed.

“No, I’m sorry.” I whispered as I watched her back retreat from my view.

 

Later that night, I heard a nurse discussing my situation with my doctor.

“The light is gone from her eyes.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure she’ll make it through. Chemo makes some people like that.”

“Some people go through depression? Are you sure? I heard her talking in her sleep the other night, and it didn’t sound too good.”

“Patients always go through a period of time when they just feel down all the time, but she’ll get over it.”

“Whatever you say, Doctor…”

 

I feel dead.

 

“How’s the chemo going?”

“Great! She’s responding really well.”

“I can tell when you lie. You smile with all of your teeth, your eyes get bigger, your-”

“Alright, alright, I lied.”

“And?”

“The cancer is gone, but so is she.”

“What do you mean?”

“She’s virtually dead. She doesn’t feel the need to live. When you don’t have the motivation, you don’t live. She doesn’t have the will to live.”

 

I want to die. What is the reason of living anymore?

 

A scene, a scene from long ago, from when I was still happy, developed in my mind.

 

“Now, for our MVP… Stephanie K!” Applause filled the hot gym as I, a girl with brown, curly hair and shining eyes, stepped forward to receive my award. “Steph has helped out our team so many times, and she is truly a player that we- and I’m speaking for the entire team- appreciate and value.” The coach smiled kindly at me. I grasped the trophy in my small hands and triumphantly held it over my head, beaming from ear to ear.

From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be a pop singer, or a veterinarian, like other kids in my class. I wanted to be a basketball player.

My mother, a woman who was always anxiously hovering over her only child, saw that the award that now stood on our kitchen counter was a boost of confidence to me. The award helped me realize what I loved doing, and that I was good at it. It was part of what shaped me into the optimistic and athletic girl I became.

 

Footsteps.

 

But I still don’t want to live.

 

A gentle touch on my shoulder.

 

I can’t live.

 

A warm hand stroking my face.

 

I won’t live.

 

“I love you, Steph.

Do you love me too?”

My mother.

 

I love you too, Mom.

“I- I love you too, Mom.”

A gentle whisper, then a final sigh. The world became black.

Forever.

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