Eye of the Survivor

When I was offered the chance to write for Literally, Darling I felt that I could offer a perspective that no one else could. I wanted to be honest and personal but without being sappy. Personally, one of my pet peeves is playing the victim, so I wanted to present myself as a strong example of my experiences, and not be whining but rather, celebrating. With this article, I’m getting just about as personal as I can. Throughout my life I’ve had a series of medical problems, ranging from “I need a band aid”  to life threatening. When I was six years old I was diagnosed with a pediatric brain tumor called Craniopharyngioma. I’m not going to go into detail about the long term effects, but the most day to day impact of this is that I have no vision in my left eye. It’s been a journey from 1999 and I’ve always wanted to share what I’ve learned. I’ve gotten my confidence and many of my values from my medical past, and I hope that readers will see that rather than complaining about my past, I’m using it as a motivation.

Young does not mean Ignorant

I was in a class a few months ago, and we were talking about sources. Surprisingly my professor used the example of children with cancer and which source would be the most effective. Everybody had different opinions on which source would be the most useful, the child, doctors, and researchers among other options. One guy in class started arguing that the doctor would be the most useful, because the kids are so ignorant and don’t know what’s really happening. This made me so angry I started shaking. Luckily another girl in the class voiced my point of view before I could explode. Despite my age, I believe I was aware of what was happening at the time. Did I know the technical definition and depth of what was occurring? No, I wasn’t awake during the surgeries, but I remember moments that made an impact on the way I think and value. Like eating an orange popsicle on Thanksgiving since I couldn’t be at home, and coming home from the hospital and being so happy.

Motivation and Purpose

As I said before, I do not play the victim. Ever. It’s almost too easy to wallow in all of the after effects of having a disease. As a survivor, I feel like each of us have roles to play in our lives. And I’m not talking about just brain tumor survivors, I mean anything. And I believe that my medical experiences were a significant, planned, deliberate play by the universe or whatever spirituality exists in this world. That is why I actually believe, yes it’s cheesy, that everything happens for a reason. Whatever exactly my role is still evolving, but I like to think I’ve just about found it.

Have a Little Faith

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Yep, I’m talking about the power of positivity. Whether you believe in the powers of the elements, read a self help book or believe in the power of prayer, nothing really horrible can come from it. As long as you feel happy in what you believe in, then that’s all good in my book. While people like to write positive thinking off, I am a full believer. After my second surgery, the vision in my left eye was completely gone, and I had lost vision in more than half of my right eye. I would consistently go in for vision field tests, and over the next year the vision in my right eye improved so drastically that I now have no blind spot in my right eye. According to my source (aka my mother) I had a consistently positive attitude throughout the entire process. So how can something so far gone suddenly turn all the way around?  I think a positive attitude might have a little bit to do with being tumor free for thirteen years.

Don’t Think of Survivors as Disabled

A flaw that I continue to see in people is that their vision of a brain tumor or cancer survivor is someone who is severely disabled. When people see someone who is disabled they feel one thing: pity. Because of this people tend to draw and gravitate on the individuals who are most disabled. As a survivor who has minimal physical impairments, I’ve noticed this over the years, as people tend to write me off as “fine” and address those with more disabilities as “you poor thing”. Even if I appear to be a functioning adult does not mean I haven’t had troubles every now and then. And even if someone is disabled does not mean they should be pitied. Although some survivors are disabled in some way, people need to envision survivors as strong individuals who have conquered their own challenges and continue to every day.

Katie
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