We all remember being twenty -- our heads abuzz with ideas and looking forward to the future. It began with a run-of-the-mill injury to the finger that prompted me to see a doctor. While at the clinic and to set my mind at ease, I asked the doctor to take a look at a painless mass I had noticed some time ago just above my collarbone. This triggered a series of medical appointments which led to a biopsy and, finally, the diagnosis.

“Should it turn out to be cancer, you must temporarily stop going to school because the chemotherapy usually causes fatigue”, my doctor told me a few days before overseeing my surgery. My final diagnosis was given to me by a doctor close to retirement who did not himself treat cancer patients. As he spoke, he kept his eyes fixed firmly on the floor and avoided using the “C” word.

Despite his age and experience, he was obviously uncomfortable giving such grim news to a young man. In the treatment room at the hospital a few days later, I felt like an intruder where the average age of the patients was easily three times mine. They all peered at me, but we were all living this difficult experience in our own way. For better or for worse, I refused to give up. I kept up my smile, my liveliness, and the pace of my life by juggling my chemotherapy sessions, my courses at school, my outings with friends and sometimes even sports activities.

Eight months went by during which I felt a range of emotions and heard tragic testimonials that are usually unheard of at my age. At last, my tests showed that my tumours had shrunk completely. My story, unlike others, is one of hope. My ordeal has allowed me to grow and emerge as someone with a stronger circle of family and friends. I began a loving relationship less than one week after receiving my diagnosis and my attending oncologist is today an influential figure in my life. My experience allowed me to confirm a number of things, namely my conviction to work towards improving the condition of others. I am now 23 years old and am pursuing my graduate studies. I still have as many projects for the future. However, unlike most people my age, I now realize how fragile life can be.