Coming to terms with a reality after surgery

A student writes about how she found a tumor in her foot and missed most of her senior year.

Listen to the author read their essay.

Almost two years ago, when the acute pain in my right foot first appeared, I was told it could be a sprain that never healed properly. 

A few months later during my second appointment, I got an X-ray and an extra bone was found. I was instructed to ice it, stretch and pretty much wait for the discomfort to subside. But the pain persisted. 

At the time, I was hesitant to tell my family, but I’m so glad I did. At the third appointment my doctor found something different.

A chondroblastoma is a rare and non-cancerous type of bone tumor that begins to form in the cartilage. An MRI found that tumor in my right foot last September, after it ate away at my bone for over a year. 

The word “tumor” can seem scary to many, but it never registered I could possibly have cancer until tests were taken to make sure it was benign. It was so sudden, and I was immediately told that if I were to walk on my foot again before the procedure, my bone would’ve broken.

The surgery left me with a full, itchy cast on my right leg, a scar on my pelvis that ached when I sneezed and a hospital-issued wheelchair, walker and crutches. I was out of school for seven months during my senior year of high school. 

Physical therapy was a constant for me during this time — I had to learn how to walk properly again, and even after all of this, pain relief wasn’t guaranteed.

I wasn’t prepared for the mental strain. I couldn’t get up on my own to get a glass of water. I had to sit down when I showered and cut my clothes to fit them around my cast. I canceled on family and friends because I didn’t want to burden their plans with my wheelchair. 

I felt as if my surgery had rendered me useless, and there was virtually nothing I could do but feel bad for myself and allow others to do the same. 

I felt stuck in my own body. I lived on my couch for weeks because I wasn’t cleared to sleep in my own bed. I was surrounded by people, yet I couldn’t help but feel lonely. For a month straight, I couldn’t go a day without crying because these harsh realities began to settle in. I was allowing the tumor to gnaw on my mental health instead of just my bones. 

I was assigned home instruction teachers about two weeks after my procedure. I was still on bed rest, and there were times when I needed their help rearranging the pillows for my foot or had to ask them to help lift me up so I could position myself on my walker. 

I knew I needed to stop pushing myself and overdoing it or I’d fall flat on my face, literally. I slowly learned I can’t control everything that happens to me, as much as I’d like to.

I was forced to accept them and figure out how to adapt. 

I decided to accept help from others and stop worrying if I’m bothering anyone with simple requests. 

For the longest time, I was wondering where I could find a silver lining in something continually getting worse.

The first few months I could only think, “Why me? How did I manage to get a rare tumor in the first place?” 

And I’m still not sure of the right answer, but I do know life is surgery — you can cut parts of yourself and add new ones, but you still have to deal with what’s left and grow from there. 

This surgery was one of the hardest things I’ve had to endure. And I’m proud of myself for allowing my body to have time to heal and for pushing through physical therapy two days after my surgery. I’m so proud of myself for having healed enough to tell my story.

It took me approximately a year to physically heal, and I’d like to say I’ve completely overcome these adversities, but it’s the opposite because the healing is never really over. But going through this process has shown me just how resilient I am. 

I’m no longer considering it a hindrance, just something that makes me different from everyone else. 

Listen to how the author was inspired to write this story.

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