Danny’s College Application Essay

I watched as Dr. McQuaide tried to say something but the words got caught in his throat. Instead, he dropped his eyes, scribbled something on a piece of paper, and slid it toward the receptionist in the hospital admitting room. Dr. McQuaide, who has been my pediatrician for over 15 years and just happened to be “on call” that day, broke the news to us. My dad leaned over to me. With glossy eyes and a voice full of trembling pride, he said, “You’ll be our Lance Armstrong. You’ll beat it.” “I know,” I thought to myself.

A year ago, I had a craniotomy to remove a four-and-a-half by five-centimeter malignant tumor from my brain. The surgery went well, but that’s not really the hard part in my opinion; all I had to do was fall asleep. Because of the high grade of my cancer, I have doubled up with both radiation and chemotherapy to best counteract any tumor recurrence. The semester after my surgery, I had to take Incompletes in Physics and AP Calculus, which I later made up, and drop two of my classes to make time for radiation therapy. What might seem like an ominous, daily trek downtown to a facility full of the walking dead soon became a lovely ritual. I felt a great deal of pride and humor in being the youngest person at the radiation center, by about forty- to- fifty years. I also took it as my obligation to bring some youthful spirit into a place so drenched in mourning, with maybe just a simple smile or a pleasant comment. It comforted me as much as it comforted all the other patients, sitting alone in that waiting room filled with nervous glances and outdated magazines.

Because of my treatment I do miss out on school when I’m feeling sick or have appointments. Also, the effects of the treatment make it difficult to play sports as I once did. But I have learned to overcome these barriers, as they cannot stop me from living a normal life. Living a normal life: that is one of my proudest achievements. Despite everything that has happened to me, I know that I am still able to do anything I set my mind to. Whether it be working diligently in school and ASB, enjoying music, or being there for my friends and family, I can still live life to the fullest.

Having brain cancer is the greatest thing that has happened to me. It has given me a new life as opposed to taking one away. This concept may be hard to grasp, but I have begun to appreciate everything with fresh insight now that I have seen how life can be cut short, both in years and quality. With this comes a stronger appreciation of the friends and family that have helped me throughout.

I don’t remember myself before cancer, and I don’t think it’s because they accidentally took that part of my brain out with the tumor. Instead, it is because I am happy as who I am today. I don’t miss being cancer-free and I wouldn’t trade the world to have my life be any other way than it is right now, brain cancer and all. I’m a better person than I was before. I can adapt, I can appreciate, and I can love on a whole different level than before. What I may lack in energy at times, I make up for with an enhancement of my connection with life and the present moment. And whatever time I may lose out on in the future, I am sure to make up for by living now.


                              Danny Riley, October 2005