Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Back to School

I finished treatment at the beginning of August 2010 and was very excited to go back to school in September. If you know me, you know that I love school. It was really difficult to miss so much.

Back-to-school shopping is one of my favorite things and that year was no exception. I remember having a great time with mom and Megan at Target walking or being pushed (I can't remember) up and down the aisles immersed in the smell of a new paper, pencils, and crayons etc. It was a lovely day.

Although it was very exciting to be starting school again, there was some disappointment mixed in. Despite my school counselor Mrs. Williams’ assurances that I can graduate on time, I was convinced I'd have to stay an extra semester or year.

Decked out the walker for homecoming
When I started back at school I was bald, eyebrowless and needed a walker to make it through the hallways. It was tough just to get through the day at first. Many times I got home and crashed on the couch and into a nap.

While I was glad to be back, school was very different than I expected. I didn't know you could feel so lonely surrounded by 2,000 people. It was as if my walker created a force field around me that other people couldn't penetrate. It seemed as if people didn't see me. People I knew seemed to look right through me or barely acknowledge me even if I said "hi." I don't know if they just didn't know what to say or were scared for some reason. No matter the reason, it hurt. To feel invisible is a horrible thing and that is what I experienced. This taught me the importance of acknowledging others, saying “hi”, or a nod of acknowledgment can make a big difference in how someone feels about their self.

This is not to say that there was no one that acknowledged me and supported me. I had a wonderful group of friends and supporters.

One new friend in particular I couldn't have made it through high school without. While I was on
Brooke & Me on prom night
treatment, Brooke Hereth became friends with Megan, so we heard about each other a lot. We describe meeting in person like meeting a pen pal because it felt like we already knew each other. Brooke was incredibly supportive and remains one of my best friends. She's a great person to talk to and hang out with; she makes me laugh and is a kind and thoughtful friend. I think something that made her such an important friend was that she had not known me before I was sick, so she didn't have someone to compare to as "normal" Sammy. Thank you so much, Brooke for being such a great friend in high school and continuing to be one of my closest friends.

I was depressed and often felt overwhelmed by everything going on from the problems with my leg. to felling isolated, to fears about the future. I have to thank my incredible psychologist Christine for helping me maintain my sanity and figure things. She was another important member of my super-team that helped me get through this experience as well as I have.

One thing that made me feel alone was that in classes, people I knew, friends even, would walk into class, see me, say hi, and walk past. No one ever asked if they could sit by me, or if I wanted to sit by them. I felt like it was always me in my little corner by myself.

This changed senior year when a guy named Sean Hoon that I knew from math class the previous year walked in to AP Lit. There were plenty of empty seats, but when Sean walked into the room he asked if he and his friend Michael could sit by me. Of course, I said yes. It was great getting to know and becoming friends with Sean and Michael throughout the year. This is one of those memories of my experience during and recovering from cancer treatment that sticks out. It was such a small moment, but meant so much to me.

By the end of my first semester back at school, I was doing much better and didn't want to have to stay any extra time. So, I figured out that Mrs. Williams was right all along. I would be able to graduate on time; it would just take a little extra work. I did independent study with the theater teacher, waived PE with physical therapy, and took an English class online over the summer. The rest of my graduation requirements would be met during my senior year.

By the time I graduated, I amassed quite the support team of Jackson High School faculty and staff, including: Mrs. Williams, Mrs. Rodriguez, Mr. Crosby, Mr. Simmons, Mme. Powell, Mme. Grindstaff, Mrs. Carbajal, Ms. Templora, Mr. Trueit, Mrs. Baker, Mrs. Stolzenburg, Ms. Fritz, Mrs. Robertson, Ms. Peterson and Mrs. Moffat.

Mrs. Williams, Megan & Me
My JHS team at the 2011 Run of Hope
Mischief Managed,

Run of Hope Total: $2,170

There is only one week left to contribute to this year's Run of Hope supporting Pediatric Brain Tumor Research

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