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Our Stories Are Meant to Be Shared Annette Crabtree

My Life After Ewing Sarcoma

by Annette Crabtree

The day before my freshman year of high school, I was rushed to the emergency room. I had been struggling with lower back pain and numbness for a week. While there, a tumor was removed from my spine. The diagnosis: bone cancer

Listening to the nurse delicately explain radiation and chemotherapy treatments made my stomach churn. I was overwhelmed and in shock. This was stuff that happened to “other people.” How was this happening to me?  

After surgery, I had to re-learn the most basic life skills: walking, bending down, dressing myself, eating. I was released from the hospital two weeks later and steeled myself for my return to school. 

High school is a time when you want to fit in, not stand out. Especially not as “the girl with cancer.” I had a few awkward moments and was given some cold stares, but I also had an incredible support system and a positive attitude. Having people treat me differently was something I would not allow. Even more, feeling sorry for myself was not an option. There were no pity parties here. I stayed busy with schoolwork, performed in school productions, and tried as best I could to keep my mind off the “C” word. 

During hospital stays, I remember thinking how differently I wanted to live my life once I was well.

The weekly chemo treatments were brutal. I was knocked off my feet and laid up in bed for 24 hours each cycle. An amazing tutor kept me on track with schoolwork on the days I missed. 

The one thing that kept me going through it all was a positive attitude. During hospital stays, I remember thinking how differently I wanted to live my life once I was well. I’d lie in bed and picture myself taking more risks. All I wanted was another chance to be healthy, a chance to live fully, to say yes to opportunities and take the ride. How many people truly do that on a daily basis?

Today I have my life back – plus a whole lot more. My doctors had told me I wouldn’t be able to bear children. My ovaries were destroyed from the high doses of radiation treatments. Against the odds, I conceived naturally. My son, Logan, was quite a surprise. I love being a mom, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. He’s proof that miracles do happen. That we sometimes can believe in the impossible.

Battling Ewing sarcoma at such an early age taught me about strength and perseverance. Cancer pushed me to my physical limits. But now I look back and realize cancer was a gift. It gave me a richer, more rewarding life. It introduced me to so many incredible people and opportunities. It taught me that sometimes you have to fight through the bad days to earn the best days of your life. 

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Annette Crabtree lives in Los Angeles, CA, with her husband, Mark, and their 10-year-old son. As a cancer survivor, her focus is now on giving back, being present, and living life outside the lines. She’s passionate about sharing her story and meeting other childhood cancer survivors. She shares her experiences on Instagram at @taketheridexo.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2019.