By: CHRISTINE MULVIHILL
My name is Christine Mulvihill and I am a 15-year-old childhood cancer survivor. I thought that after I was discharged from the hospital everything would be normal or even sort of normal, but that’s not how this story goes. You see, somewhere through all this my soul has been scared and a curse cast upon myself, a curse I will take to my grave.
My soul is a deep dark bottomless well
A place where all my thoughts dwell,
Walk across the bridge of gloom
Find the place where bad things bloom.
Thoughts of revenge & torture, thoughts of pain
Thoughts that would make the normal insane
Tiptoe the tight rope across the well
But if you fall in the bottom you’ll find hell.
Take the plunge, now it’s your turn,
Feel the terror fell it burn
Like boiling water pouring down your back
A heart of gold is something I lack.
My soul is like fire, violent and warm
Like Nathalie Imbruglia I feel torn,
Ripped apart at the seams
Head filled with bad dreams
And thoughts and wonders all forsaken
No one to love for my heart has been taken.
But since you’re here stay a while
You won’t have fun, but I can make you smile,
And laugh at all you are afraid to face
This is my soul, an unnerving place.
I used to think life would be perfect, never a frown on my face
I’d have a perfect figure and always travel with grace,
I could pick my man from a catalogue that’s grown fit for a queen
I never thought that the people I loved could ever be so mean.
Life kind of just hit me not waiting ‘til I was ready
Knocked me from my stance in which I was so steady
It changed me as a person, a person that’s not me
It has changed me into everything I don’t want to be.
Sometimes I just can’t grasp it with the help of all my friends
It’s like trying to wrap your arms around a tree that never ends.
When I look in the mirror I despise what I see
The person starring back doesn’t resemble me,
She’s quite a different person with her heart so out of place
She becomes invisible when the tears run down her face.
She built a wall of shame around her soul and let’s no one in
She can fool you with her smile even though she cries within.
She keeps her feeling locked up in her heart,
When she’s all alone is when she falls apart.
I act as if I have it together and everything is in place
But when you’re not looking the tears begin to race
While people surround me I pretend not to care
My heart bleeds in pain when they are not there.
When my stomach gurgles with rage, you think its indigestion
But what is broken is more the appropriate question.
What is broken cannot be fixed so don’t worry my friend
I’ll take this curse from the beginning to the very end.
Help me if you can listen, help me if you will
But I can’t cure this curse because there is no pill.
My story begins at the age of three in the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)
I saw the tears in my mother’s eyes and the concern on my father’s face. I had no idea why or what was happening. “What’s going on momma?” I asked her. She didn’t reply, she just held my hand and started to cry.
Less than 40% chance is not what anyone would have hoped for. But you can’t change the odds; you can only fight against them.
When we found out that I had ALL, (acute lymphoblastic leukemia) my family members tried to explain to me what was going to happen, but I know now that nothing in the entire world could prepared me for what was about to happen.
Before I knew it, I was hooked up to an IV and all my long blonde gorgeous hair was gone, once perfectly placed on my two-year-old head, now on my pillow.
Aside from my parents and family who were by my side the entire 3 years never giving up hope, my aunt Jamie was always there when I felt down. We would always have fun playing games and she would always paint my nails just to make me feel special. My grandmother, a retired nurse herself, was also another very special person; she always knew that I would overcome my illness. Every day she would take me to the chapel in the church and I would stare at the enormously realistic wood carved statue of Jesus. I would ask “even though you look like you are in more pain than me, can you ask your father to help me.”
Then my grandmother and I would go back to the room and say this prayer together;
And now I lay me down to sleep and I pray you lord my soul to keep, but if I shall die before I wake, I pray you Lord my soul to take.
In the hospital I met an Angel, and her name was Sarah. She was in the room next to me and she had leukemia too. She was a very sweet girl and we had fun together, she helped me not to feel as different. We shared a lot of things like pizza parties, we played in the art room and we gave each other the drugs that were impossible to take. It seemed much easier to swallow when she gave them to me, compared to 5 nurses holding me down while they poured it down my throat. Out of all my friends on the fourth floor she was the best. She was an amazing friend even if she was only 3.
But eventually all angels must go back to heaven. And about a year later my angel Sarah went back to heaven. She died in her sleep, because the doctors failed to find a match for her bone marrow transplant.
My Name is Sarah
My name is Sarah, I am but 4
Trapped staring at the ceiling and at the floor
I don't even understand what I’m fighting for.
I never did wrong I always did what was right
Now it hurts so bad I can’t sleep at night.
Why is my mommy crying what is going through her head
I’d give her a hug if I was allowed to leave my bed.
My stomach is starving but cannot eat
I want to get up but I’m much too weak
I lay down my head and drift off to sleep
I pray to the lord for my soul to keep.
Then I stop breathing and through the dark I see a light,
My name is Sarah and cancer murdered me tonight.
I Live a Lie
I live alone, I live a lie
Awaiting the day I say goodbye
Whenever I turn around disaster strikes,
Pins and needles, knives and spikes.
Just when you think things couldn’t get worse
I’m smacked in the face with this curse
Whirled around till I’m miserable once more,
Shaken until my body collapses on the floor.
In my room I can escape
And mold my worries into shape
I cry in pain until I just can’t any more
And listen to music to ease the sore.
Knowing it will all come back again
Sunshine pierced by pouring rain
Like tears of sadness splashing down on joy
Emotions are unpredictable as a toy.
At its mercy like a puppet on a string
A trapped dove without wings
On my head, always alone
Maybe one day I can fly home
Fly high looking down on this pain
Maybe one day I’ll be happy again.
It made me sad just to look at the empty bed on that fourth floor in room 420. Although it was 10 years ago that she died, I will always remember her because she will forever be in my heart.
Sitting in my hospital bed with the sounds of people crying and other children screaming out in pain and agony echoing through my head. But through the pain and suffering there was always someone there to keep me company. I never lost hope and I promised never to give up even after I relapsed and had to start all over again, adding radiation on top of the chemotherapy. This was the most freighting time you could ever imagine.
What If Faith is Not Enough
When reality finally hits you it hurts
When the truth comes into focus it’s brutally painful.
Hope isn't always enough
It’s not always a happy ending.
What happens when faith is not enough?
I get hot flashes
My depression splashes
My soul is cold like stone,
The fear of being alone.
So now I lay me down to sleep
I pray you lord my soul to keep
Don’t let me die before I wake
I pray you lord my soul do not take.
I barely have a past
And may have no future
~ empty pages of a book
~ a story left unwritten
~ a life left unlived
~ a hope left in the dust,
Please don't take me yet
Your mercy you won't regret
I am down on my knees
Begging you please Don’t take me away.
At night I dream a misty graveyard
A tombstone the name I cannot see
A flashlight in the darkness
A figure so lifeless I cannot breathe,
Then I awake not as fearless as I may seem.
If this is my future
And if it comes to pass
And this breath be my last
Then this thought to you I cast.
What if faith is not enough?
Then life would be rather tough
With nothing to believe in
And nothing to justify
Nothing to keep you sane
Nothing to grasp when you fall
You will have nothing,
nothing at all.
Sometimes that is how I am
Falling in the darkness
With nothing to take hold
This feeling leaves me cold hearted,
All I feel is the pain of being unreal
No one knows how this life feels, when you are so lifeless.
So now I lay me down to cry
I pray you lord you can't let me die.
Now I lay me down to sleep
Close my eyes without a peep
Never to be opened again.
Life is One Tough Pill to Swallow
Through the years I have learned
Life is one tough pill to swallow.
I’ve learned to triumph and to give up
I’ve learned I can do anything with a full coffee cup,
I’ve learned there are some things in life you just can’t have
And I’ve learned having them doesn’t always make you happy.
I’ve learned when you love someone they don’t always love you back
And nothing hurts more than a broken heart,
I’ve learned that friends can be the most important things in life
But getting on their bad side can be like standing under a knife.
I’ve learned when you throw a cookie in the sky god doesn’t take it
But as long as it’s not wax he appreciates the thought,
I’ve learned not to take people you care about for granted
They may be here today but you never know what tomorrow brings.
I’ve learned that crying about the past can’t change a thing
And worrying about the future will make the present even worse,
I’ve learned to fight for what you want in life
I’ve learned that people can steal your stuff
But they can’t steal your dreams,
I’ve learned that even the meanest person you know still has a heart
And that no one is too mean to cry.
I’ve learned that people change and grow apart
But it’s those people you should keep in your heart,
I’ve learned that people can be smiling on the outside
But crying an ocean on the inside.
I’ve learned that being too young is not such a bad thing
But being too old isn’t good either,
I’ve learned winning isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
But failing can burn like fire.
Over the years I’ve learned;
I’ve learned that life is one tough pill to swallow.
And I promised myself to keep on fighting until I was just like everyone else again, until I could wake up in my own bed and run free without that stupid IV. No matter how painful a struggle no matter how long, I would have fought to eternity to be healthy again but with all these bombs dropping on me sometimes I’m not sure I have the strength.
I Will Not Die
I used to think the world was fair and that life works itself out
But now I’m confused and my heart’s filled with doubt,
The threads of this dream are starting to unwind
I’ve come to learn the world is unjust and fate is unkind.
I always thought you were real but my perception was blind
You’re blurring my vision and playing with my mind,
Slowly like the sands of time you’re ripping away at my soul
You’ve taken all I have, all that makes me whole,
Driving myself crazy trying to fill that empty void
But I can’t pull it together, my confidence you’ve destroyed.
You’ve taken my happiness and replaced it with hate
So much hatred and anger I just can’t take,
You’ve poisoned me enough, I’ll break down and cry
But never will I give up, no I will not die.
You will not take me down, you will not conquer me tonight
I will not lie down in my grave I’ll stand up and fight,
I maybe bleeding but take off that smile if you think you’ve won
A knife through my heart is nothing, the battle’s just begun.
There is warrior inside me that you failed to see
A strength you missed while you were judging me
She will not give up as easy as you think
I’m drowning in depression but she will not sink.
Through all the pain and criticism, she will stand tall
When pushed passed the limit she will not fall,
I will take whatever you give to me
And with God by my side I will be free.
I won’t bow down to you and just take the abuse
You can’t break my faith, don’t try there’s no use,
So you can turn that smile into a frown
Because this is one girl that just won’t go down.
I Can Only Take So Much
With all these bombs that are dropping on me
The light in the dark I cannot see,
It’s hard to have faith when the light goes out
It’s hard not to have thoughts of doubt.
There’s so much pain I can’t take it no more
I’m curled up crying on the floor,
I’m begging for mercy to that God of mine
Please relive my pain and make the sun shine.
I can’t take it I’ve screamed and cried till my eyes were sore
I’m overwhelmed I can’t do it, I can’t take it no more
I’m stressed I’m pressed to the max
I can’t take it, even my suffering comes with tax.
I’m only human, someone have a heart
I can’t hold it together I’m falling apart,
There’s so much on my shoulders your breakin’ my back
My problems aren’t in a list they in a stack.
So much that I can’t carry it all
I guess this is life, and it all comes with a price
I’m rackin’ my brain like game board dice,
How can I live day to day
If it’s all unfair this way.
The rich stay rich and the poor stay how they are
If you ain’t savage like that then you don’t get far,
Out there in the world it’s everyone one on their own
It’s all just a game you find out when you’ve grown.
Marriage is no longer I do ‘till I die
No one goes to high school, they go to school high,
If you watch yourself then you’ll do fine
But if not you’ll wind up pregnant or working the streets for a dime.
You’ll find out that life’s not fair
You may have problems but no one has to care,
All the good ones they change for the bad
They throw it away not appreciating what they had.
The innocent lives are claimed to tragedy
Life isn’t so fair, it’s quite sad ya see,
Nothing will have to go your way
It has no pity if you’re having a bad day.
It has no sympathy to all who are suffering
It's so unpredictable so predict anything.
Life is so unfair
It has no soul and doesn’t care
No one has to be there when you fall
It takes it one by one or takes it all.
It will leave you feeling like all is lost
I feel as if the pain precedes its cost,
I can’t hold it on my shoulders
I feel as if the world is over.
It can’t get worse the sun will shine
The pain I have it’s all mine,
But I’ll wake up and it will still be there
Blankly to the sky I stare,
Is there no mercy for one who follows?
I know the answer my pride I swallow
There is no mercy for anyone
It’s not over if you think you’ve won
It doesn’t stop, not now not ever
It will follow my path, be my shadow forever.
I was just a young child when I was first diagnosed with leukemia. A young girl whose fate would have brought her to the grave. But look at me now. I am standing here in front of you and although I may be far different from all of you on the outside, I am still a person on the inside. My physical scars in time will heal, but my emotional scars will remain forever.
Because I Never Gave Up on Me
Walking down the hall without that horrid IV
No words can do justice to how I feel so free
I one so small have conquered that roaring “C”
And showed you all I can, because I never gave up on me.
Not many believed, they lose faith fast
Not even I dreamt how long I’d last
They said it had ended when the stone was cast
But I showed you all I could, because I never gave up on me.
Oh how the pain burned
Slow like seasons turned
And to give up I yearned
But I showed you strength, because I never gave up on me.
With silent tears I struggled on
My only hope she now was gone
From above her light shone
I showed her I was grateful, because I never gave up on me.
Lying in bed
Screams of a child and loved ones who cry
There are too many miles to go why can’t I just die.
My skin is sore
From the needles I bore
The drugs I take They make me ache
I’m tired of fighting let’s end this bid,
Oh why can’t I just be a normal kid?
I’d show myself and I’d show you all
That I made it through with my back against the wall
Because I never gave up on me.
In size and in strength may you never judge me
I won that battle because I had faith in me,
There is so much more that you can’t see
And I showed you all, because I never gave up on me.
Walking down the hall without that horrid IV
No words can do justice to how I feel so free,
I one so small have conquered that roaring “C”
And showed you all I can, because I never gave up on me.
Confidence is something I seem to lack,
The weight of what others think sits there on my back,
There’s nothing I can cling to to make it go away,
Mirrors are my worst enemy when I think I look okay.
My face becomes hot, I think I’m going to cry,
Now I don’t want to be center of attention I think I’d rather die,
Just think what they could be thinking or what they might say,
Rather than take the chance I think I’ll walk away.
I’d rather be by myself and just blend in with the crowd,
Times like this I keep my mouth shut, I’ll be noticed if I’m loud,
I’ll just sit in my desk quietly until 2:30,
Then I’ll race to my locker and it will just be me.
But I am the worst out of all the people who think,
I scan every compliment and analyse every wink,,
I don’t know why I let all the things get to me,
What happened to the beauty I used to see,
The beauty of what I was, no matter what anyone thought,
Now’s a faded memory all the positive I forgot,
Now when I walk down the halls I glue my eyes to the floor,
And I try not to get stuck holding open the door.
I know it must seem sad how I torture myself,
But what others think first and myself on the shelf,
I wish I had more confidence and didn’t care what others think
Maybe then I wouldn’t consider myself the weakest link.
I wish people would think before they acted and wouldn’t break my chain
If people could think about the outcome then I wouldn’t be in so much pain,
I wouldn’t think about what I wear and that I stick out from the crowd
I wouldn’t have to think twice if I wanted to be loud,
I could be as free as the sky above me & the sea below
Than if I’d never think because I wouldn’t know.
If you could support me and not criticize my style
Maybe then I could return it with a smile.
Artwork title; The Hilda Pearce Project Hope Foundation, CHEO COLLECTION, April 25, 1999