04/14/2015 10:25 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

What Changed When I Returned to High School After Cancer Treatment

Sabrina Dominguez is a former brain cancer patient at MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center.

I am often the loudest person in the room (and have been since I was little), I have a laugh that sounds like Goofy, I cannot control my emotions when I become excited and I am constantly chatty. But something changed in me when I went back to school after cancer treatment last year. I learned that high school is a tough place, especially after a year away; that it's not easy to be different from your peers; and that illness can change friendships.


When I went to freshman orientation, I remember the principal told us that this would be the best four years of our lives. This was where many of our best memories would be held. I remember thinking, "This is what I've been waiting for." I was so ready to move on and start a brand new chapter. I built high school up in my head but it wasn't all that I expected -- for reasons typical of a "normal" high school experience and for reasons far outside that realm.

High school for me consists of homework till all hours of the night, crying because boys can be mean and something most high schoolers don't have to go through: cancer. Expecting my classmates to treat me like I wasn't gone for a year was expecting a lot. But I still hoped, and I was disappointed. When you leave high school, whether at graduation or because of an illness, you might lose touch; you might begin to think that people were only your friends because they saw you five days a week.

sabrina dominguez

I've learned so much in this past year as a high school senior that most people do not have to worry about. I had to learn to be comfortable with my body while roaming the halls of my high school where girls weren't bald, they weren't slower than the rest and their balance, appetite and body shape weren't compromised.

I've learned that it's okay to be different. It's okay to not blend in. I'm that person you can pick out of a crowd whether it's because I'm the loudest person in the room or because I've barely grown my hair back. I honestly don't care because, in my opinion, I can rock the edgy short haircut. I don't care what people think anymore, because I'm beginning to love myself.

sabrina dominguez

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