My name is Hazel Grace Lancaster, just Hazel. But never Hazel Grace. Not anymore at least. I’m sixteen years old and live just outside of Indianapolis, Indiana with my parents. I am also the completely reluctant owner of a pair of crap, tumor-riddled lungs, brought to you by the miracle cancer drug Phalanxifor.
Trying to be a teenager while also simultaneously not trying to bite it is hard, and annoying. I know you’re intrigued now, so I’ll let you in on the ins and outs of being a cancer kid.
I don’t have too many friends. I’m content to sit in my house and watch reruns of America’s Next Top Model all day since I don’t go to regular school anymore. I see my friend Caitlyn occasionally and we talk on the phone sometimes, but it’s really hard for me to relate to her talking endlessly about boys and clothes and makeup like they matter. I also have another cancer friend, Isaac who I met in the literal heart of Jesus at cancer kid support group. He lost both of his eyes thanks to our BFF cancer, so thankfully I don’t have to put much effort into my appearance when going to visit him (cancer humor). We mostly play voice activated video games and make the game say things like “find the penis cave,” because we’re children inside. I had another friend too, Augustus, Gus, but we’ll talk about him later.
Ok, I guess now is later. I dated Augustus Waters, fellow cancer kid, metaphor lover, and closet dweeb. We were quite serious for a while. I got him to read my favorite book, An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten, and he got me to read The Price of Dawn. The bastard even took me to Amsterdam, using his Wish Foundation wish to take me to meet Van Houten and explain all the unanswered parts of the novel. We had dinner. We had sex. We were like a real couple. He called me Hazel Grace and I called him Gus. “Okay” was our “Love You.” Everything was going great, until Gus’ cancer came back.
But hey, I’m not the only cancer kid with love troubles. Isaac’s girlfriend dumped him when she found out he was losing his other eyes (total bitch move, right?) and Gus dated another cancer girl before me, and she died.
Hi, my name is Hazel Grace and I’m addicted to Phalanxifor. I’m so glad I’ve gotten that out in the open. But really, I’m not a drug addict, but I am hopped up on lots of drugs a lot of the time, and oxygen too. Can’t forget my tank buddy who I would quite literally die without.
But Peter Van Houten, now that man was a D.R.U.N.K. When we went to visit him in Amsterdam he was completely smashed, not to mention rude, loud, and obnoxious. Then the scotch-o flew all the way to the US for Gus’ funeral and proceeded to stalk me and be drunk every time he did it. I guess I could cut the man some slack considering he lost his daughter to cancer, but you know he could have continued writing sequels to An Imperial Affliction rather than rotting his liver.
In case I haven’t already made this perfectly clear: Cancer sucks. Not only are you constantly sitting around wondering whether today is your day to kick the bucket and trip over into the great unknown, you also get to tote around practically useless body parts while you do so. My lung function is nearly non-existent which is why I have to carry an oxygen tank with me wherever I go, and I’m always in danger of my lungs filling with fluid and basically drowning me. And hey, if it’s not your lungs, it could be your eyes, which can be removed, or your leg, which can also be removed. Removal doesn’t stop the potential of spreading though, oh joy. And cancer doesn’t just affect the patient. Nope. It affects the parents of the patient, the girlfriend or boyfriend of the patient. Having an illness just puts an overwhelming stress on everyone in the sphere of the sick person.
Death. The End. The Big One. The Big Sleep. Death happens in the middle of life, in the middle of a book, in the middle of a sentence. We can’t predict exactly when it’s coming and we can’t stop it. We can cheat it, we can hate it, we can ignore it, but it’s coming for us anyway. It took Gus. It took Van Houten’s daughter. Someday it’s going to take me. I just hope when I bite it, nobody writes seriously lame and depressing crap on my Facebook wall. Especially not people I haven’t talked to in years.