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Struggling To Fit In - A Child's Cancer Journey

by Elisa Toy about a year ago in Childhood
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As an eight-year-old kid, you want one thing; to fit in with every other kid.

*Trigger Warning: This article briefly mentions suicide and death.*

At eight years old, I wanted badly to be normal like every kid at my school, but it wasn’t the case. I put up a fight with my parents about going to school every morning because I did not want to be picked on and I did not want to deal with my bullies. Yes, eight-year-old kids bully others, and it’s harsh.

Why was I bullied?

I had cancer.

Photo of eight-year-old me!

I was an eight-year-old girl fighting cancer with no hair, relying on the use of a wheelchair at school. You would think other kids would be nice regarding my battle, but they weren’t. Rumors were spread. Many kids avoided me because they were told my cancer was contagious and they would get it too if they came near me. I already felt extremely lonely as the only kid in my town fighting cancer, and this just made it all worse.

I was picked on for being bald as well. Many kids would joke and call me a boy, which led me to cover up my head with beanies and hats at school every day.

I soon realized that this wasn’t reduced to school. I remember going grocery shopping with my parents one evening; something I was excited to do because I was rarely allowed to go out in public due to the risk of my immunocompromised self getting sick. I put on a cute, purple shirt and denim skirt, and brushed what little peach fuzz of hair I had. I wanted to look nice for my one, rare outing. While wheeling behind my parents in the frozen food aisle I hear, “Mommy, why is that boy wearing a skirt?” I understand that the child asking the question didn’t know I was a girl, but what really hurt me about that moment was that the mother who knew I was a girl didn’t take the time to let her kid know that I wasn’t a boy. She just went along with what her child said, looked in my direction, laughed, and said, “Because that boy wants to be a girl when he’s obviously not.”

I was now an eight-year-old kid getting bullied by full-grown adults. I couldn’t enjoy what little outings I was given because I was afraid of being stared at and picked on by adults. The same adults that instill in their children that “it is not okay to stare at and bully others”. What hypocrisy.

At one point, as a child who was aware that I could lose my life to cancer, I wondered if it would even be a bad thing if I did. “At least I could escape the cruelness of everyone in society. At least I could be in a place where I would be considered normal.”

I hate to say this, but any child or adult that makes a child think they’d be better off if they weren’t alive, is a monster. Their lack of empathy and compassion for everyone around them makes them inhuman.

While I was constantly bullied as a child, I did have a few close friends that were there for me and constantly stuck up for me. My friends and family are what made my fight to beat cancer worth it. I didn’t want to leave them behind because I loved them and I knew they loved me. I am now 13 years cancer-free and I do have some advice for my past self that I thought I’d share with others going through a similar experience.

Being Different Isn’t Easy

By Randy Fath on Unsplash

Being different isn’t easy, but it’s what makes you, you! I understand that being normal would make life easier, but normal is boring. Embrace yourself and embrace your journey. Both are an important aspect of your life and both have led you to where you are today.

There Are People That Love You

By Melissa Askew on Unsplash

If you’re being bullied or you’re struggling with the thought of staying alive, know that there are so many people that love you. It can be difficult to understand when you’re going through so much, but there are so many people in your life who would do anything to support and help you. Reach out to them and let them know what you’re going through.

Bullies Hate Humor

By Dan Cook on Unsplash

This is something I learned later in life. While in high school, I was still often bullied. I had realized after laughing at one of my bullies' harmful jokes about me, that bullies absolutely hate humor. Well, they hate humor that their victims laugh at. A bully's goal is to receive a negative reaction from their victims. If you laugh with them, instead of getting emotional or angry with your bully, they’ll get frustrated enough to leave you alone because they’re not getting their anticipated reaction. However, this doesn’t work all of the time. I do recommend that you reach out to an authority figure if you’re being bullied.

Help Is Available

By Taylor Grote on Unsplash

If you are in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress, you can reach out to the United States National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to talk to someone at 800-273-8255.

Crisis workers are available 24 hours a day and all calls are free and confidential.


About the author

Elisa Toy

Nature Lover | Activist | Cancer Survivor | They/Them

I am a queer writer from Arizona sharing my journey and thoughts with you! My writing focuses on my mental health, love of nature, and everything in between!

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