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I had been 21 for less than a week when I learned that I might have cancer

When you’re young, you like to believe that you’re invincible, and that there won’t be any real consequences for your actions. You like to believe that you can eat what you want, drink as you please and experiment with your sobriety at your own discretion without real life rearing its ugly head.

I had been 21 for less than a week when I learned that I might have cancer. Not in the “google your symptoms and give yourself a panic attack on WEB MD way,” the serious, uncomfortable conversation with your doctor way.

And I learned that if I did, I had no one but myself to blame. The symptoms I was experiencing weren’t freak occurrences, they were the result of my lifestyle. My immediate reaction was, of course, to get piss drunk in the middle of the day.

I lived in anxious ignorance for over a month, with appointment after appointment being made, and seemingly getting no closer to any solid answers. For a while, I tried to drink less. But as time went on, I figured, if I have cancer, I already have it, and if I really do have cancer, I need to make the most of the time that I have left as a normal college student with eyebrows and hair and a phenomenally rotund ass.

Sometimes, I didn’t think about it. Other times, it was all I thought about. I can barely get an assignment in on time, how am I supposed to balance school with cancer? How am I going to explain this to my friends and family? How are my clothes going to fit after I lose all of that weight?

I don’t like being the center of attention, and I don’t like bumming people out. Party pooping isn’t a hobby of mine. I wasn’t raised to just openly and nonchalantly talk about or express my feelings. I ended up telling 4 of my friends. The last two people I told were my roommates because I didn’t want anything to get weird in our suite or be treated differently. It never seemed like the right time. “Ha ha ha ha, what a hilarious joke! Btdubbs, I might have cancer and I’m slowly but surely losing my shit.” “Hey, I see you’re curling your hair and taking shots getting ready for the night, so I figured it would be as good a time as ever to tell you I might be dying.”

It was a long, lonely process. It felt like my life was paused, but everything kept moving around me, and as much as I tried to bring myself to speed with the world around me, I couldn’t, because I had no idea what was going to happen when I pressed play again, and I was petrified. Would I go back to partying every weekend, hoping to run into my crush on campus and pulling all nighters, or was I going to have to start chemotherapy and buy wigs?

The moral of this story is to enjoy your youth but handle with caution. Make the most of this precious time that you have in your life before you’re paying back student loans, but remember that you are human, and biology applies to you like it applies to everyone else. We all joke about it not being alcoholism until we graduate, and our diets of Dominos and ramen noodles, but it’s important for us to realize and understand the risks we put ourselves in and be more conscious about our health. When you’re going through something like this, everyone tells you “it’s going to be okay” and for me, it was, but every day, more and more teenagers and 20 somethings are having their lives turned upside down by diseases they thought they were too young to get.

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