Rise Again

Janae Polk, Staff Writer

“It felt shocking and overwhelming learning about my health condition. I never imagined having cancer, I honestly didn’t know what to say; it just happened so suddenly,” says Cherish Polk, a former leukemia patient.

The endless amounts of chemo, the late night hospital admissions, the constant pain. The fear of never knowing if they’re going to make it to the next day.

Cancer is one of the most fatal diseases that occurs throughout the world, affecting many lives. In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States. Sadly, an estimated 595,690 of those will likely result in death.

“Cancer changed me emotionally and physically; it made me stronger.””

— Cherish Polk

Battling cancer is a hard thing to do; coping with the illness takes an immense amount of love and support not only from close ones, but from yourself as well.

Polk shares, “Living with leukemia took each day at a time. I know I had to stay strong for myself and encourage myself in the best way. I had to have faith regardless of how I was feeling.”

In the early age of her diagnosis, Polk expressed, “It was tough not being able to go to school to see my friends for a while.”

Despite the fight and fatigue, Polk has kept a positive attitude throughout her battle. She refuses to let her condition stand in her way of everyday life, expressing that “[She] knew [she] could beat the cancer, [she] chose not to let it define who [she is].”

Polk constantly occupies herself by helping out with her family’s day care, participating in fashion shows, going to church weekly, and visiting new places when she can.

Recently, in the month of August, she got the heartwarming news that the cancer was terminated. She shared, “The fact that I’m still going through chemo is depressing at times, but I know I need it so the cancer won’t come back. I try not to complain about it much, the chemo is helping me get better.”

Through the process of the chemo and persistent doctor’s appointments, it can take a huge toll on parents. They work tirelessly to make sure extreme measures are taken so their child can get better.

Shanine Polk, mother of Cherish Polk, shares that her initial reaction to her daughter’s health condition was “shock and disbelief, an affirmed belief of the calling of her life, spiritually.” She elaborated, “ I experienced an array of emotions, at that moment it all seemed surreal; emotionally, I was numb.”

Being born premature, Cherish was exposed to fatal health conditions. Shanine has already experienced the long process of late hospital nights. She mentions that “the numbness grew because Cherish was born at 27 weeks and endured three surgeries. She defeated all the odds that were set against her prior to the doctor’s diagnosis.”

Now, says Shanine, “[they] are here once again, faced with a challenge of another health crisis that could potentially take her life and alter it in some way.”

Since Cherish’s diagnosis, Shanine shares that she plays an active role in making sure that she keeps a healthy household. “I research various natural remedies I can implement in our diet that is helpful in fighting off cancer cells and generating healthy cells,” explains Shanine, “We all do our best to take advantage of every day that we get to wake and see each other.”

Shanine often feels stressed dealing with the hospital visits and consenting to treatments that can help Cherish, but could potentially harm her as well. “I sign papers authorizing doctors to use chemotherapy that’s basically poison that not only kills cancer cells but can also cause kidney failure, heart failure, and more,” she explained.

In the light of her trying to keep everything together, Shanine expresses the difficulty of how Cherish feels in the midst of her senior year being in the condition she’s in. Shanine remarks that while “embarking upon the beginning of her life as a young adult, things are a lot different for a typical 17-year-old. She’s shopping for wigs as opposed to figuring out how to style her own hair.”

“We have to continuously keep tabs on her to take extra precaution because no one cares like mom and dad do. Our faith in God and continuous support from our extended family and church family has been extremely important. It serves as a source of strength and encouragement to not only Cherish but also the rest of the family, as we’ve come together in an effort to rise above and continue this journey to the finish.”

Cherish has learned to cope with the fact that cancer has changed her life in a profound way. She’s dealt with the negativity, but has in the process defeated all of the odds, rising above her illness.

“I am a Leukemia Survivor but I will keep the peace and continue to love myself throughout, says Cherish, “Cancer changed me emotionally and physically; it made me stronger. My perspective changed in life. I sometimes felt that no one understood me; I often felt different from everyone else. After being diagnosed I had a better outlook on life, and came to the realization that life is too short. I never took life granted, I’ve learned to forgive things even when it wasn’t deserved.”