Chapter one

I never dreamed I would fall in love at 15 years old, but I also never imagined that life would take the drastic turn that it had either. No one can ever predict the course that life will take. No psychic, no medium, not even a witch or sorcerer. Not one person in the entire universe can tell us how our lives are going to end up. It is left to the fate of the stars and gods. We began as a fairytale. He was everything I had wished for, hoped for, and prayed was true. Most would have envied the love we shared. In fact, I remembered often times I had been told we had a love like in the movies… or better. I don’t really know what happened. Perhaps I was to blame. I would like to say he was the one at fault, but I’m not really sure that’s the truth. There’s an old saying that marriage is 50/50, that each person has to give 50% to make the relationship work. What if it’s more like 100/100? Each person has to give 100% each in order to make the relationship work? Mathematically, I’m not certain if it works out; it’s never been my strong point. Logically, however, it seems to me like it just makes more sense. When two people are working on the same team, and they are both giving their 100% effort, how could it fail?

“Do you mind turning that down?” he asked as we laid in bed one evening and I had my iTunes playing. It wasn’t that he was averse to music. No. He didn’t hate music at all. It was only that he was trying to watch yet another episode of NCIS. I had never been much of a tv watcher myself, especially when I wanted to work on my thoughts and get them down on paper. He’d always been the kind to unwind in front of his favorite show. When it came to opposites, he and I were the furthest ends of the scope.

“Well, it helps me think,” I replied and looked over in just enough time to watch him roll his eyes.

“I’ll be downstairs then.” He got up to leave the room, but I conceded and said, “Don’t go. I’ll use my earbuds.”

Thus, we continued the never-ending cycle of not speaking, his-life, my-life, and feeling frustrated with a lack of communication that there always seemed to be. I felt alone in the world. The only time there seemed to be any sort of love or affection was when he wanted his needs fulfilled. Life had become no more than a routine of work, kids, shopping, and his desires, or so it seemed. The only saving grace we had was the one thing that kept me humble. It was the constant drain and curse on my life; yet, it would be what saved us.

I remember it all like it was only yesterday. I began my freshman year of high school just like every other normal teenage girl—full of hopes and dreams, wishes for the future, and starry-eyed for any good-looking guy that crossed her path. But life has a way of turning its back on us, and it did to me, making me question every good thing in life but also giving me the one thing that would be my saving grace.

“Madeline!” she called as I covered my head with my pillow and stared at the clock in my room, not wanting to face the unsightly hour, knowing that we had another miserable trek to the giant hospital to see the specialists.

“I’m almost ready!” I lied as I rolled out of bed and pulled a sweatshirt out of my closet and a pair of sweatpants out of a drawer.

“We are leaving in ten minutes, young lady!” she continued, but I ignored the hollering as I walked to the bathroom to brush my teeth and wash my face, trying not to focus on what was going to happen later that day or the events that had led up to this day.

It began in November, and I was sitting in the back of her tan, four-door, Chevy Cavalier when nothing seemed real anymore. Even though I was there, I wasn’t. An alarm went off in my head, startling me, telling me that there was something seriously wrong, even though there was nothing I could do to stop it. A flooding of sensations rushed from my stomach to my head, causing my mind to fog over and my scalp and face to tingle and go numb, and my eyes started moving without my control. The only thing I could think in my mind was, “I’ve been here before; I recognize this scene.” Though, looking around me, I was right where I had been— my mother’s car.

“Madeline!” she banged on the bathroom door. “Time to go!”

Taking a deep breath, preparing myself for what lay ahead, I opened the door and stepped out to meet my fate.

“There have been no changes,” the doctor said as he looked at my scan and spoke to her while I stared out the window of his office. “My initial treatment plan still…”

Not wanting to hear anymore, unable to accept that this was happening to me, I closed my eyes and leaned against the wall, pulling my legs against my chest, allowing their voices to become like the adults on the Charlie Brown cartoon. “Wa, wa, wa, wa…”

Finally, after about 10 minutes of their discussion, Dr. Brighton came and stood directly in front of me, so I could no longer avoid him.

“Madeline,” he said. “I handle cases like this all the time and young women like you every day. While your tumor is rare, it isn’t unable to be treated. You are in good hands. I promise.”

“Dr. Brighton,” I said and turned to look up at him.

“What questions can I answer for you?” he said.

“How is this going to change my life?” I asked.

“I won’t lie to you, Madeline. Your life will never be the same. However, the advice I give all my patients, especially the ones about your age, is that you can let this experience make or break you. Don’t let it break you. You have a family who loves and cares for you, and this hospital is going to give you the tools to survive. Use them.”

After thinking on his words for a moment, I finally said, “But what about my heart? I feel like it’s breaking. I’m going to be an outcast now. Will I be an outcast, Dr. Brighton?”

Instead of answering the one question I needed answered more than all the others, he only said, “Well, as a young woman of your age, I suppose you’ll need to surround yourself with good friends to repair whatever feelings of loneliness you have. Do you have a best friend?” he asked me but looked to my mother.

She nodded and I said, “Yes. I have several good friends but I haven’t told them about this yet.”

“I suggest you tell them sooner rather than later,” he said and walked over to where the chart was sitting on his desk. Then he spoke softly to my mother for a few more moments before he reached for the door and I knew that the reason he hadn’t answered me was because I would become an outcast. How did I know this? I knew with the very words he spoke, “rare tumor.”

“Doctor?” I said once more.

He looked to me before exiting.

“What do I say to them?” I asked.

“The truth.” He walked out as the nurse was walking in and she came over with some papers for my mom, and my mind started rehearsing what I would tell my two very best friends. How could I tell them this? Would they even want to be friends anymore? Would they look at me differently or treat me as thought I was now a leper? I didn’t want to be different; I wanted to be the same. There was no way something of this magnitude in a young woman’s life wouldn’t change everything. I wanted everything to be the same, to be normal again and to go back to the way it was. But nothing would ever be normal again. Nothing would ever be right again, and I would always stand out, be one-in-a-million, and not in a good way— like a princess or Miss America—but like a circus freak, a sideshow entertainer, or something to be laughed at for the rest of my life. Some of my thoughts felt like inescapable demons sent to torment and torture me as I wondered why this was happening to me. All my life I had been taught that there was a great being somewhere who was good, kind, gracious, and protective, and only wanted what was best for us. But now I was going through one of life’s most horrific and tragic battles: 14 years old and diagnosed with an uncommon tumor, accounting for only 2% of all brain masses. Where was this great protective entity now?  Everything I had been taught my entire life was now being questioned, and everything I had once known I knew no longer.

Just as the doctor had said, everything did change. It didn’t only change with my friends though. My whole life shifted out from under me faster than I even realized it.

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 © 2019  Meg Sechrest All Rights Reserved

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