Kali Poulakos
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5 "Tips" to Surviving Cancer

Trust me, I wouldn't be alive without them.

My last day of chemo and the hospital decided to do a photoshoot with me and my friends who came to support my last treatment. The excitement was real!

Yes, I know, a morbid start, but I promise it gets better!

When I was in high school, I was living the life. I had a great GPA, amazing friends, a loving family, and was killing it in sports. But all that came to a halt when I was 17 in the middle of my junior year.

I got cancer.

At first, I didn't know what my life was going to be. Anytime you get life-changing news, your brain kind of goes crazy and you don't know how you are going to be or where you are going to end up. I was worried people were going to treat me differently, I would get pity I didn't want, I would start failing school, and mostly, I would not play sports and feel like me.

I promised myself that I wouldn't let it change who I was as a person or let it control my life. Yes, going through chemotherapy kicked me hard and I got pretty sick, but that was the only thing that held me back from doing life and the things that I loved to do. If you are someone who has been diagnosed and don't know what to do or you are someone who knows a person going through getting the "you have cancer" news, here are just a couple things to help you or let you help that person get through it a little easier.

1. Don't let it run your life.

I understand that it is a little vague, but trust me, if you go into that mentality of telling it "no," it makes all the difference. I continued to stay in school, kept my GPA up, continued to play sports, and always hung out with my friends. I made the best of every situation, even if I felt like throwing my guts up from treatment. If you have a positive mindset then it will make the journey a lot easier.

2. Stay active and eat healthy.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Why in the world would I workout and eat salads when I feel like I've been hit by a bus and I can't sleep all day?" The thing with cancer is that the healthier you are, the easier the journey is. I was raised by a health freak (my mother), and when I was diagnosed, my doctors told me the reason my treatment was going to be easier was because I took care of my body, physically and internally. Tomatoes are a great food to eat. It has natural antibodies that fight cancerous cells. Oranges as well. Before you eat oranges, smell the rind. This citrus does the same thing that tomatoes do. Eat less sugar. Processed sugars attach themselves to cancerous cells and make it harder for your immune system to fight. Do research and go deeper into finding foods that help and work for you. Be careful though, as to not eat your favorite foods. I can't eat a lot of foods anymore because treatment changes your senses.

3. Surround yourself with the right people.

My family, my best friend, and my school were the best helps throughout everything. My family were my biggest cheerleaders. I mean, obviously, they are my family. My best friend took care of me when my parents couldn't. Safe to say, after me going through what I did, we have been closer than we ever thought we would be, and we are bonded for life. My school was also such a big help. My friends helped with what I would let them help with; they didn't pity me and I was cleared to play sports by not only my doctors—which is very important—but also my school and the state. And they didn't treat me like the "sick kid." My teachers even bought couches for the classrooms because I refused to skip school. If I got tired throughout the day, they would let me take naps and get right back to class. If there are toxic people around, cut them out of your life. They are not needed. You need all the love and support you can get. Be selfish with it, too. It doesn't hurt anyone. :)

4. Listen to your body.

I am the type of person to push and push until I physically and mentally can't go anymore. DON'T DO THAT! Listen to what your body is telling you. I have been playing sports since I could walk and I am a very competitive person. I don't want to be taken out of the game, I am very aggressive, and I hate losing. During treatment, I couldn't push until I broke. I had to listen to my body and what it was telling me. If I got a little tired, I had to take a break immediately, and if I had a headache, I needed to tell someone and take medication. Don't push to the point of going off the edge. You will regret it if you do, and the day and how you feel will get 100 times worse than it already is.

5. Smile!

It might seem simple, but it is harder than it sounds. Going through something like chemotherapy or radiation kicks the life out of you and you want to feel like the world sucks and nothing is good. When I had to go to the hospital for treatments, I always came in and left with a smile no matter how horrible I felt. I always made jokes with the nurses and talked to all the neighboring kids and their families. I always tried to make others laugh and smile. Being able to put a smile on others' faces always puts one on mine. It also comes with surrounding yourself with the right people. Get people who make you happy and help you enjoy life. A smile goes a long way and being able to smile and laugh is the best medicine someone can receive (in my opinion).

Whether you are going through a horrible time or you know someone who is, try these things. I know I wouldn't be who I am or where I am in life without doing all of these things through one of the darkest times in my life. The story has a happy ending, too. In 2019, I will be celebrating five years cancer-free! The life that you have is the only shot you get. You are the only person who gets to decide how you live it. Whether you enjoy life to the fullest through everything or you hate everything and pity yourself through the hard times. The ball is in your court. How are you going to decide to play the game called life?

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