The journey with cancer is not an easy one. It is a journey that changes our lives, who we are and who we want to become; a journey that helps us understand what is really important and how we should appreciate it.
I was diagnosed with a rare cancer called transitional cell carcinoma, when I was 6 years old. I’m now 17. This cancer, more common in people over 60 but rare for someone my age, is the single most important thing that changed my life, not only because I have learned to live, but also because I have witnessed a little something called friendship.
Over these past 11 years fighting cancer, I have met many people through my numerous surgeries, chemotherapy infusions and clinic visits, but no one has been quite like Andrea Solano.
Andrea, who has become not just a friend but also a second mom, is one of the most compassionate, loving and caring nurses I have ever met. Since the first day, Andrea has always put a smile on my face no matter how tired or weak I felt, or how much nausea I had. Whether I was there for a half-hour or five hours, Andrea always found time to make me happy, and whether we were playing video games or simply joking around, she always found a way to make me believe that it would all be OK.
Over the years I have known her, Andrea has done a lot for me, but one of her greatest gifts has been the essential and vital gift of hope. From her comforting smiles to her motherly phone calls, Andrea has always made me feel like I am not alone in this difficult journey. This past November, I was in the hospital after major surgery on my lungs to hopefully stop concurrent pneumothoraces, and even though it was my birthday, I wasn’t exactly “celebrating” the day. Suddenly, after just waking up from a much-needed nap, I heard a huge racket as people entered my room singing “Happy Birthday.” Not surprising at all, Andrea, who had the day off, led a group of people into my room to begin the best birthday celebration I have ever had.There are many people that simply pass through our lives without leaving a mark, but over time, I've learned that there are a very select few who carry us when we fall, help us continue when our chances are slim and leave a mark on our hearts that we will never forget.
She brought many things: friends, gift cards, my favorite pizza and a beautiful and tasty cake, but the most beautiful gift of them all was in the form of a song. While we were eating, a friend in the group said he would be singing and playing a song that had been written by Andrea and another oncology nurse. This song, which was all about me and the things I loved to do, not only made me laugh, but most importantly, made my day so very special; even though I was in the hospital on my birthday, that day I felt like a reigning king who had been blessed for life with the gifts of hope and friendship.
Other than making unforgettable rackets on my birthdays, Andrea has also done several other things, including: taking my family out to lunch, taking me to an amazing country music concert and organizing an unforgettable April Fools’ joke that made us laugh for weeks. Right now, we are also planning a ski/snowboarding trip that will hopefully be a lot of fun, but most importantly, very useful in strengthening our beautiful friendship and showing me a freedom and liberty that cannot be felt in the hospital.
There are many people that simply pass through our lives without leaving a mark, but over time, I’ve learned that there are a very select few who carry us when we fall, help us continue when our chances are slim and leave a mark on our hearts that we will never forget. Andrea is one of these very few. She is a friend, a mother, a sister and someone who I can always count on to give me hope and strength to carry on. At her side I have learned that laughter is the best nausea medicine, that a simple smile always endures more than a pain pill and that hope is by far the best chemotherapy. But most importantly, I’ve learned that Andrea Solano isn’t just a nurse, but a guardian angel that I am very grateful to have.