"Don’t live like you're dying; live like you’re living; live like there’s a tomorrow waiting for you."

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williamsHow Never to Be Dying, No Matter What
Rakesha Reed

Rakesha is a student at West Los Angeles College, and she enjoys reading and writing. At 19, the world is her oyster, and she is mulling over the many career choices that are open to her.


Being a teenager, as young as I was, the thought of dying never crossed my mind. I was 17 years old when I found out I had cancer. My eleventh grade school year was just ending. All that should have been on my mind was senior year: grades, boys, parties, and the big one, GRADUATION!

This all started one day, the cancer thing, in April of 2009, while working at my dad’s business. My dad noticed this huge lump on my neck. “What’s that on your neck?” he said. I thought he meant I had a bug on me, and I replied frantically: “What? What! Get it off!” He told me, “You have a big-ass lump on your neck; you need to go get that checked out!” Minutes later he’s on the phone telling my mother that she needs to take me to the doctor, “like A.S.A.P.” My mother, with her overly paranoid self, is already thinking the worst. Who can blame her after dealing with two of her sons almost dying because of gun violence? My dad passed the phone to her, and my mom started questioning me: “Why you never told me there was something wrong with your neck?” I must have looked at the phone as if she were standing right in front of me, murmuring: “If I knew, I would have told you.” I ended the conversation with both parents, and I went back to work at my dad’s business, while they continued their conversation on the phone.

Two weeks later I was at the doctor’s office getting my neck looked at, the start of many doctor visits. Doctors questioned my mother and me about family history, so they could quickly diagnose me, as if to blame my ancestors for anything that might be wrong with my health. We told them that some of the women on my mother’s side of the family had thyroid problems, but nothing major like cancer.

Doctor visit after doctor visit, they concluded that what I had on my neck was a tumor growing; therefore, they were going to have to remove it. Doctors explained to my mother that there was a possibility that it could be cancer. That’s when I saw the expression on my mom’s face change from calm to teary. “You mean to tell me my baby could have cancer?” she asked. “It’s a possibility; we aren’t going to be sure until we remove the tumor.” Then, one of the doctors said, with not much clarity. “But if it does turn out to be cancer, at least we got it out. Thyroid cancer is treatable.”

At this point I wasn’t afraid of death; I was more afraid of the more current pain, the needles and the poking. They kept poking me with these big huge needles, sticking them into my throat, because that’s where the cancer was. My mom was the only one who cried. I guess she was afraid because she had to watch me go through all that. In her mind all she thought was “cancer equals death.” My dad had to try to calm her down by telling her, “it’s going to be all right; your daughter’s not even crying.” As for me, I thought everything would blow over and I could get back to having fun; I didn’t think big of the situation. I just thought, “They will remove it, and everything will be fine." But no, it was papillary thyroid cancer that I had; they had to remove my entire thyroid gland. And now I’m stuck having to take a medication, Levothyroid, for the rest of my life; two pills a day for now, and later maybe many more. I thought “They might as well put me in a retirement home now.” And then I thought, “No, they’re not!”

After dealing with this entire situation, I now feel like when it’s your time to die, just realize God’s calling you home; you’re not needed here anymore. It’s time to live life with no regrets; be happy because you don’t know what’s going to happen when you step out your door, if a bullet will hit you, or if one doctor’s visit will turn into a million, and people will start poking big needles into your neck. Thyroid cancer could have meant it’s my turn to go—if untreated it would have. I thank the doctors who treated me, even though I had to go through pain to get here, to good health, but hey, they clearly saved my life. I’m able to see another day, my mom, dad, even graduation. And now I get to share my story, and tell you: Don’t live like you're dying; live like you’re living; live like there’s a tomorrow waiting for you.