Battles with cancer strengthen family bonds

Published 12:16 am Monday, October 19, 2015

By Matt Washko

Special to the Post

When I was very young, my sister was diagnosed with cancer. Within five years from that time, my mother was diagnosed as well.

This was very life-changing for me as I spent the next few years living in hospitals, my grandparents’ house, my house and a rental apartment. I went from just hearing about cancer and how bad it was to actually experiencing its effects and dealing with them.

While my sister was ill, my parents had to devote most of their time to her needs while my grandparents looked after me. My grandparents were and are very active, so we spent a lot of time outdoors. For example, they just completed a 90-mile kayak race, which is pretty impressive at any age.

They taught me to appreciate nature and to enjoy exercising, two values I continue to hold today. I now play four varsity sports for school and many other seasonal sports.

The hospital where my sister stayed also had a roof-top playground and some toys. My sister and I would hang out and play with other children there at the hospital. At this time, I looked up to my sister and wanted to be just like her. While other kids were in day care and pre-school, we were doing advanced school work and art. This helped me be more creative as well as giving my academics an early boost.

When my mother was diagnosed, I was a little older. I developed more independence and persistence as I did some tasks that parents would normally do. Before then, I never fully appreciated how much my family did for me.

Some of my earliest memories are from when my family was fighting cancer. Although I did not always know exactly how serious the situation was, I knew that my sister and mother were sick.  …

Being in and around hospitals so much, I developed an appreciation for the doctors and the work they do. This has been a major part of my motivation to enter the medical field. As a result, I continue to volunteer with several organizations that aid in cancer research and awareness. Most importantly, throughout all this time, my parents, our friends and this community constantly prayed. My faith in God was strengthened, and I remain devout today.

Both my mom and my sister are cancer free and well. Our epic fight against cancer has made us stronger and more optimistic. This struggle has changed my life greatly and helped make me who I am.

Matt Washko is a senior at Salisbury High School.