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The Student News Site of Joshua High School

The Owl Flight

The Student News Site of Joshua High School

The Owl Flight

The Student News Site of Joshua High School

The Owl Flight

More Than Her Diagnosis

Student Overcomes Cancer
More+Than+Her+Diagnosis
Mary Stiles

As ice creeps along the edges of the windowsill, the fluorescent lights dimly illuminate the cold, cluttered hospital room. 

Days seem to blur when only the steady tone of the heart monitor and the constant I.V. drip entrance her in and out of consciousness. 

Attached to several machines and underneath the thin, scratchy layers of blankets lies an aching body, sweating from a fever yet freezing from the dead of winter. 

Trying her hardest to sit up on the bed, she’s just out of reach from the colorful lights scattered across the skyline. 

Unable to move her fatigued muscles, tears roll down her face. 

It’s hard to believe it’s Christmas Eve. 

While everyone was celebrating with family and friends, junior Mary Stiles was amidst her eight-month battle against stage 4B Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. 

In March 2023, she returned to school and became known as the girl with cancer. Despite this setback, she now makes up for her lost time by attending every school event, participating in clubs and competing with the Debate team.

“It’s hard to be yourself, as before, when no one sees you as who you really are, just the label you got,” Stiles said. “Every day I wish I hadn’t gotten cancer; every day I wish things had been different. I wish I was different.”

Although her cancer has gone into remission, she still experiences long-term side effects from the chemotherapy in addition to the stress of high school. Her last treatment was less than a month before her first day back at school.

“My body simply wasn’t ready to go back,” Stiles said. “I had gone back [because] I had missed out on so much and I wanted to go back to ‘normal’ but I didn’t realize that although treatment was over, my health problems would continue.”

Stiles suffers from chronic bone pain and psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. After her time in and out of hospitals, she was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder from the severity of treatment.

“During treatment I lost people I was very close to due to treatment, and I’ve struggled with severe survivor’s guilt and depression from grieving,” Stiles said. “I still struggle with it to this day.”

While receiving chemotherapy, Stiles befriended other children in the same situation, some of whom did not receive the same ending. After five months of chemotherapy, Stiles started proton radiation therapy for two months until she was declared cancer free on March 29.

“I’m so scared of losing people now, so I cherish every moment I have with everyone,” Stiles said. “Everyone that I know means so much to me, and I definitely wasn’t like that before [treatment]. I am so much more thoughtful, or at the very least, I try to be.”

The process of cancer treatment and the possibility of death has dramatically affected Stiles’ outlook on life. Even though the thought of cancer returning still lingers, she doesn’t let the negativity ruin her relationship with friends and family.

“I try to create a close and strong connection with everyone I become friends with because people mean so much to me,” Stiles said. “Seeing how easy it was to lose someone during cancer treatment, and being so scared that my best friend was going to pass away one night and I would never see him again, was terrifying.”

Since treatment, Stiles has reclaimed her lost time in the hospital. She is an active member in the Art Club, Congressional Debate, Health Occupation Students of America and Student Council as well as supporting the school by attending games and competitions.

“It’s hard to do twice the stuff in one year, so I’m just doing what I can,” Stiles said. “I’m hoping by senior year I’ll be healthy enough to be able to do as much as I want without my health getting in the way of anything.“

Although cancer treatment has taken a toll on her physical and mental health, she has devoted her life to helping others. After high school, she plans to work in the medical field and provide children who have cancer someone who understands.

“Life can be taken away so easily, and there’s no reason to be scared and live carefully, because nothing in this life is guaranteed,” Stiles said. “Everyone should do what they truly want to do, and stop thinking about what might go wrong.”

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About the Contributor
Nick Smith, Editor-In-Chief
Nick Smith is the Editor-in-Chief of The Owl Flight newspaper. This is his third year in the newspaper and Academic UIL journalism, for which he has twice qualified for regional competition in both News and Feature. When he is not managing the website, writing or editing the latest story, he is playing tuba in the Fort Worth Youth Orchestra. In his free time, he enjoys listening to music, spending time outdoors and watching the latest blockbuster movies. Smith is a very diverse student who is very involved within the school, and one to whom you should always come with any questions about school-related events.   
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Comments (3)

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  • M

    MaddieNov 11, 2023 at 12:34 PM

    This is amazing! Mary is an amazing friend and i’m glad her story was told!!

    Reply
  • L

    LauraNov 10, 2023 at 12:52 PM

    I really like the way you portrayed her! This story is beautiful

    Reply
  • M

    MacNov 10, 2023 at 12:11 PM

    This is beautifully written Nick, good job. Her story was needed to be told.

    Reply