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What I Think of When I Hear the Word ‘Cancer’

April 22, 2016
4 min read
Cierra and her friends at the head-shaving event

Cierra Walsh was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in her right femur on March 19, 2014. She went through nine months of chemotherapy and four surgeries on her leg. Now, the 15-year-old has a strong voice for kids with cancer — read what she has to say about it.

People often say that the three most important words in the English language are “I love you.”

But my life experience suggests something different. The three most important words to me are “you have cancer.”

Everything in my life has been changed by those three simple words.

When I think of cancer, the first thing that comes to mind is the day I was diagnosed. As I lay in a recovery room, half awake and gazing at my weeping parents, I felt my stomach drop. I can remember knowing right away that I was about to endure a long and scary uphill battle.

Learn about osteosarcoma >

Next, my mind jumps a few months ahead to July 11, 2014 — the day of my allograft, a procedure to remove the tumor and replace my femur bone. I lay on the surgery table, about to fall asleep. I was so scared and nervous. I knew that this was it — no time to turn around, no time to make a different choice, no time to jump up and run away.

For months, I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I was diagnosed with cancer. But in this moment, the cancer was very real.

Cierra sitting in bed with dog

Cierra’s hair began growing back in at the end of her extensive treatment.

I remember these, my worst day and my most influential day, and then I remember my best. March 19, 2016, exactly two years after I was diagnosed. Exactly two years after the worst, scariest day of my life.

I stood in a huddle with some of the greatest friends I have ever had. My heart raced and my face is turned beet red as I heard the applause and saw someone gesturing for me to come onto the stage.

I grabbed my crutch and walked up to a man who handed me a microphone. And then I spoke.

Cierra giving speech on stage

Cierra stood on-stage and shared her story at the head-shaving event.

It felt like I was standing there forever, bright lights shining in my eyes, tears streaming down my face, a smile that felt like it would never fade. I don’t remember what I said — I felt my mouth moving and heard my words coming out, but I wasn’t paying attention to that. I was paying attention to the faces in the crowd.

The faces of my friends and family, who came to a little restaurant to hear me speak and see me shave my head. The faces of the total strangers with open ears and wide smiles as they listened to me and my story. The faces of the people who would soon tell me that they shaved their heads just because they heard me speak.

This day, the day I shaved my head, made me feel like I was a voice for these kids.

Cierra poses with shaved head

Cierra rocking her beautiful, bald head.

Looking back on it now it feels like everything in my life had been leading up to my diagnosis. And that day exponentially changed me for the better. It led me to St. Baldrick’s, a foundation that has presented me with multiple opportunities to impact my community, and I am forever grateful.

If two short years have provided me with this many chances to make a change, then I know that the next 80 will present me with infinite possibilities to help the cause that means so much to me.

As I travel further along in my journey to fight childhood cancer, I invite you to join me. So start today: shave your head, donate, start an event — you can even do something as seemingly small as sharing this blog on social media. Every action taken against this disease is incredibly helpful and no action goes un-thanked.

These children need a voice. And you don’t need to be a survivor to be that voice.

Like Cierra, you can be a voice for kids with cancer. Get involved today.