SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2014       Personal Memory Ethnographies

Tyler Arthur

Racism Is Not Needed!

When many people hear the term “cancer” they think of a disease that the elderly population gets, but I know first-hand, that is not the case.

On July 3, 2001 I was admitted to the hospital with a brain tumor. It was about a week and half before my eleventh birthday. On July 5, had surgery to remove the tumor and the initial biopsy showed that the tumor was not cancerous. But once a full biopsy was done they found that part of the tumor was cancerous. Doctors told me that the cancer they found is predominately found in males within the first decade of life. On August 6, 2001 I began chemo-therapy and radiation treatments. I was scared beyond my wildest imagination and to make things worse my grandmother died of cancer on August 12, 2001, which made me more scared.  I was afraid I was going to die too. On top of all this drama in my life on September 11, 2001 the World Trade Center in New York was attacked by terrorists. I finished all of my treatments on March 28, 2002. In April 2002 I got to have a wish granted by the Make-A-Wish foundation. My first wish was to tour the White House but I could not do that because of the anthrax threats. My next choice wish was to meet the Arizona Diamondbacks player Luis Gonzalez because he was my favorite player.

            While going through treatments I soon began to learn that cancer does not discriminate among race, gender, age, etc. I saw all types of kids come through the treatment center from little babies to teenagers. There was also a racial diversity among the kids. I became friends with an African American kid with cancer and we would talk about our lives outside the hospital was as well as how our treatments were going. I remember one day I went in for treatment and I did not see him. My mom and I asked where he was and we were informed that he had passed away, and that saddened me.

For my treatment I had a portacath (an internal IV inserted on the left side of my chest that was used for administering my chemo) and every time I would go for treatment the nurses would have to flush out the line with saline solution before and after I was done. When the saline would go into the port I could taste the salt water of the solution and I could also smell it too. Also when my doctor came into the room to examine me before I would start I could smell coffee on him and it would make me nauseated. Still to this day if I have an I.V. and it gets flushed with saline I can still taste and smell the saltiness of the solution and the smell of freshly brewed coffee still makes me nauseated.

            Before my illness I had a few friends who were not of the same ethnicity as I am but I mainly hung out with other white kids. My experience with cancer has taught me not to “judge a book by its cover” but to get to know someone for who they are before making a decision on how to view that person, because you never know what that person is going through or dealing with. My best friend happens to be of mixed race as well a cancer survivor and I stood by her while she went through her treatment because I understood some of the things she was dealing with and my support helped her out a lot and made us better friends in the process. My mother has mentioned on several occasions that she is proud of me because I became a person who will get to know a person no matter what, before passing judgment on that person.

            When I became a parent I never expected to be at the side of my child as he had to battle a traumatic event such as the potentially life threatening disease cancer. I expected my child to help me through a life altering event, not the other way around.

I will be the first to admit that I can be quick to judge a person based on a first impression and not give that person a chance to prove themselves. I play softball on a regular basis and it is a sport where almost everyone knows everyone else and people talk about things they hear about other people. Based on some of the things I hear I will pass judgment on that person. I should take a page out of my son’s book and learn to get to know that person before passing judgment but sometimes it is hard to break old habits.

            Growing up I was not able to play sports as I was and still am limited on the activities I can and cannot do. Even when I got older and the people my age were partying and experimenting with alcohol and other things I made the conscious choice to not do those things  because I did not want to jeopardize my health in any way since I have had to deal with various health issues as a child. I believe this allowed me to mature faster than most kids my age because I saw what a deadly disease can do to people  living through a potentially life threatening disease.

            My experience with cancer had such an everlasting impression on me because it shaped who I am today. It has lead me to the path that I want to take in my life for the future. It also has left an impression on my life both because of my Make-A-Wish and because my grandmother with whom I was extremely close passed away at the same time I was doing treatments. I also learned many things and made choices in my life regarding all of this that I will take and carry with me for the rest of my life.

            Right now in my life I am pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology which I hope to take and do social work in a hospital, preferably Phoenix Children’s Hospital. Right now while I am in school I am currently volunteering at Phoenix Children’s Hospital to be able to give back since giving back to kids with illnesses is something I have wanted to do for a while now. I hope by giving back I can help kids learn that racism is not constructive even without having to go through a traumatic experience like I did. I also want to show kids that no matter what challenge happens in life we can turn it into a positive.

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