"When you're fighting something that makes you question everything, and makes you feel lost as anything else, all it takes is just knowing that even if you feel alone, there are others in the world who want to be lost and alone with you."
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Continuing our series featuring the submissions of winners of the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation's annual Andre Sobel Award, this week we share the essay of Micah Moskoff, the Third Placer Winner of our 2011 Andre Sobel Award.

For the next few weeks, we will share the winning essays and the amazing young adults behind these entries. More information and the full list of winners and their essays are available on our website.

OK, take a moment... Breathe...


Okay, take a moment... Breathe... Let's be honest, Micah, that's never worked for you.

In all honesty, whoever came up with screaming at the top of one's lungs was genius. Because, though it does not solve anything, it is liberating. And everyone needs, or at least wants, to feel free as opposed to feeling trapped.

You see, the truth is, I'm not sure how to start my story this time. I've written about it time after time, I've talked about day after day, and God knows I've thought about it more than I can ever let on. I guess, today, I just feel... LOST.

Here are the facts:

1. I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia back on November 1, 2003 at eleven years old.

2. I spent almost three years fighting something I was told I could originally beat in a little under two years.

3. My treatment consisted of chemotherapy, radiation and lots of television, mainly Friends and reality TV.

4. I finished treatment on July 25, 2006.

5. I will be officially cancer free this summer because I will have reached my five-year mark.

Now, that was the easy part, but let's be honest: the in-between, you know, the real make-you-want-to-throw-pillows-out-the-window or the emotional-pain-that-is-so-overwhelming-you-think-your-heart-might-stop-even-for-a-second truth is so much greater and harder to tell... because it just is.

I know I'm rambling, I know. But like I said, the breathing never helps, so I have to express myself in a way that even puzzles me.

The bottom line is that no one ever tells you the real truth, the in-between-the-lines truth: there is so much that you couldn't change if you wanted to, and for better or worse, relationships made every difference in this horrifying, and yet strangely poetic journey.

When I was sick, it was like I was glass. I could easily break and people had to treat me with care. And they did. My mom, dad, and two-year-older brother became so much to me. They were my shelter, or I guess in this metaphor I'm attempting to create, a table for me to rest on. (DOES THAT ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE?) Anyway, something held us together and therefore, I held together. Like I said, I was fragile and there were times when I did break. But they always managed to piece me back together. I love them. I do.

Of course, I had some incredible friends, too. Keep in mind, they were all young, like me. Innocent, not even at the age of puberty yet. But they called me, hugged me, protected me, laughed with me. Maybe they didn't understand, even I didn't understand. Not sure if I do to this day. But the few that stayed by me... Well, thank you. And I won't be letting them out of my life anytime soon.

Then, there were others. Those who didn't know how to cope with my illness or how to react to me.

Once upon a time, there was a young girl with long brown hair, a goofy smile and a naive sense about her. She was good at basketball and softball, made ridiculous jokes, and felt on top of the world.


Something happened along the way to me:

She became bald, sick, tired, she spent most of her time sleeping, soon she became reserved and lost. The end.

So, in some ways, it was my fault too. I didn't reach out as much as I should have. I didn't know how. In order to understand, just imagine, standing in place while the world is speeding past you at the speed of light. They move on with their life but you are just... STILL.

I learned from this that some relationships change forever. And for anyone, especially an eleven-twelve-year old girl, it's never easy. How do you fix it? How do you change it? See, there it is again: change. Then you realize, maybe, as much as it hurts for them to go, maybe they were there in your life when you needed them and gone when you were ready to move on.

Unfortunately, there are times when relationships are not enough. I met several people throughout my journey who were plagued with similar life-threatening illnesses. They didn't make it. With that came survivor's guilt. Nothing is as painful as questioning why you remained alive while the person you cared about, who had a similar journey, was taken away.

At the end of the day, all someone ever looks for is to have someone to hold onto, even for a little while. And when someone is sick, all they look for is someone to give them a sense of belonging, but more than anything, people look for... HOPE. Because, no, they don't get what you're going through, not one hundred percent. And they can drive you crazy. Or they leave your life, maybe even leave the world. But when you're fighting something that makes you question everything, and makes you feel lost as anything else, all it takes is just knowing that even if you feel alone, there are others in the world who want to be lost and alone with you.

I'm not sure if this is even on point. I feel a little lost myself nowadays. What I'm trying to say is that sometimes all we need is to know that despite the obstacles, despite the burden of the unknown, all we need to do is to find our way back. We need to hold on tight with each other, close our eyes, and imagine deep within us the inner child that keeps us holding onto the possibility of letting go and learning to find the wonders of free-falling!

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