Waiting for change

By Phillip McCorkell

I just dropped two classes towards my grad certificate. The course load was just too much. I should have known better than attempt a full course load again. When I first returned to college, I was advised to do my diploma over three years instead of the normal two.

Like a lot of childhood cancer survivors, I don’t like to listen. As a result I found myself in the hospital. Some good did come out of this: I discovered that the heart damage was worse than originally diagnosed. My psychologist sat me down and in no uncertain terms told me I was taking the extra year. Unlike a lot of the other survivors, my long-term effects from treatment didn’t show up until many years later. Much, much later.

Dizziness, hearing loss and changes in vision were the first effects to show up. Later on bone, lung and heart damage were discovered. Years earlier when I had voiced my concerns about these side effects, my specialists would tell me, “You’re making this up to get attention” or “It’s all in your head.”

Today, all of my past concerns are well documented in medical articles and by the Children’s Oncology Group. I often wonder if they had listened back then, maybe things would be different. Yet with all my medical issues, I am still considered their miracle kid and success story but in the last little while, I feel like I have aged fifty years.

So how has this affected me upon returning to class? As mentioned earlier, I have dropped the two classes for now. I am also finding the days to be too long and exhausting at times. I sometimes feel lost both in and out of my classes. In fact, one of my professors stopped me in the hall and said she was concerned about me – that I had seemed lost in her class. I was feeling out of sorts, but I always thought I hid this well. I guess it’s starting to show. My memory is not as good as it used to be. It’s there, but slow. I have developed a bit of limp, as well as a loss of strength. Always on the look for elevators and automatic doors. Accessible technology has been a Godsend.

Although I face many challenges, dealing with attitudes that won’t change is still the biggest barrier out there.