From the bottom of my heart I thank you
Written by Maria Splaine
It was the summer before my junior year of high school, and I couldn’t wait to start. I was training hard, taking three AP classes to prepare for college, and looking forward to the upcoming cross-country season. We had a possible championship team and I was fully committed to doing all I could to make that dream a reality.
However, the cross country season did not go as planned. I was in the best shape of my life but my performances were just getting worse every week. My coach couldn’t understand and neither could I. Frustration melted into concern as one day I felt a lump on my neck. Finding it was like hitting a brick wall. I spent the next few weeks going from doctor to doctor finally landing at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
That’s where I heard the three words that would change my life: "You have cancer." For a moment, my whole world came to a crashing halt. I didn’t have time for cancer—I had life goals and plans that in that moment felt like they had been blown to bits.
However, from that very first moment the doctors, nurses, and staff at the Jimmy Fund Clinic were amazing. They were so upbeat, positive, and confident that instead of being terrified, they almost made me feel like the diagnosis was a relief. After months of frustration we finally had an answer. Their attitude was, well now that we know what’s wrong let’s start the road to recovery.
My doctors gave me the mentality of "you can do anything you want to do. This will not stop your life plans." My oncologist told me, we are here to make sure you will have your future and you WILL complete your goals. The doctors and staff here absolutely gave me the confidence I needed to begin my fight against cancer.
It’s all the little things that may not seem like much but mean the world. Just once, I mentioned that I was a Boston Bruin’s fan and Shawn Thornton was one of my favorite players. One day when he was visiting Dana-Farber the staff made sure he stopped by my infusion room while I was getting chemo. It’s a good thing my nurse Margaret turned off the pulse monitor because I’m pretty sure my heart rate would have broken the machine.
Every time I came into clinic, my doctor Katie Greenzang would ask me how my swim team was doing. Just by asking this question every day, she reminded me that I could do anything I put my mind to. She made me realize that having cancer and going through treatment did not mean that my life was over. I could still be a teen, go to practice, and get good grades.
As my chemo was finishing up, my doctors mentioned physical therapy might help me get back to athletics faster and it worked. I was able to attend a weeklong boot camp at the Naval Academy just six weeks off of treatment. I was also able to start the cross country season on time and by the end of the season was back to my old self and racing well. I found the physical therapy process really interesting and ended up volunteering at the clinic during the time I was getting therapy. My plan now is to become a physical therapist, so I owe my future career to my doctors.
I graduated from high school on time, and went on to Harvard. I don’t know where my future will take me but I know I owe a large part of it to the people at Dana-Farber. The feeling you get when some treats you as Maria who happens to have cancer instead of the poor girl with cancer whose name is Maria is indescribable. My love for the people here goes beyond words. They are my family and I will never forget them.
It’s because of great people like them, and the folks who support Dana-Farber, and their commitment and generosity, that kids like me can survive, get better, and move on with their lives. From the bottom of my heart I thank you.