Written by guest contributor Caralyn Reynolds
In April 2012, my life turned upside down. At the age of seven—on a day that will never be forgotten—I was diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma brain tumor. I was forced to ponder what that meant and what was in store for my future and, to be honest, I didn’t even know what the word cancer meant or how it would truly affect me. Who knew that it would take me away from my family, school, or activities? Unable to picture myself having to lie flat on my back in a bed for weeks or having multiple “sleepovers'' at the hospital, I was not fully aware of the hardships, multiple surgeries, or complications I would endure. Having this overwhelming feeling like I was seven going on 30, I was forced to grow up quickly.
No kid wants to sit on the sidelines watching everyone else play while feeling stuck and helpless; furthermore, no child wants to be made fun of because they look different... when they lose their hair because it fell out or they had to shave it, or when they have a needle sticking out of their chest because of a morning blood draw and an afternoon chemotherapy session. This adversity is hard enough for adults to wrap their head around and comprehend, let alone a child who is still trying to figure out who they are and what they are meant to be in this world.
On May 1, 2012, I walked my way into the operating room like a champion. Sure, I was scared, worried, and terrified—who wouldn't be? Although I felt lost without my parents in the room, they were still there guiding me and protecting me every step of the way. This journey I was starting wasn’t going to be easy; in fact, the odds were stacked against me. Everything that could go wrong did; however, it constantly reminded me of a verse from the Bible, Philippians 4:13; “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Every additional surgery I faced, every port complication, or reaction to the medicines I took, I could get through because I had an amazing God on my side. I knew if I could push through while having an optimistic spirit, it would make it easier to recover.
My journey with cancer has rarely been a smooth ride. I have continually fought and persevered through life with determination, perseverance, and optimism. I am a fighter—stronger and better than before. I continuously find the good in every situation and will not let a challenge stand in my way. Through these challenges I have had the opportunity to be a part of so many amazing organizations that serve families living through childhood cancer, including Lighthouse. My family first went to Lighthouse in 2016 as a family. It was a much-needed break from the chaos of life. That first year we made such a connection with the team that they became family and ever since then, my family and I have gone back and served alongside them. Lighthouse is something that we look forward to doing every year, and I hope you do too. Remember—even if you don’t feel it, you're still making a difference in someone else's life.
Caralyn Reynolds is 17 years old and lives in Buffalo, New York. She is graduating high school at the end of June and attending Niagara University in the fall for nursing. In her free time, Caralyn enjoys doing things outdoors such as camping, kayaking, bonfires, and hammocking. She also loves baking, time with family and friends, and serving the community.