My Friend Harry

How Harry
Potter
Helped Me Overcome My Own Lord Voldemort

By Sammi
Robertson

Harry and I were about the same age when we got news that would
drastically change both our lives forever. Harry had just turned eleven when
Rubeus Hagrid quite literally burst onto the scene and informed Harry that he
was a wizard. It was March of 2003, and I had just turned ten when a tall
doctor (not quite as tall as Hagrid, of course) twitched aside the
curtains surrounding my hospital bed and beckoned my father into the hallway of
the local ER. Instead of telling my father that the excruciating headaches,
neck pain, and vomiting I was having was because I was a witch with awesome
magical powers that couldn˜t be contained, the doctor said that something had
shown up on the CT scan of my head I had just undergone. A mass. A brain tumor.

I
couldn't quite comprehend it. Me? I had a brain tumor? I knew it had to be a
mistake. Surely I would've known if something was in my brain! I'd always been
perfectly healthy until three days prior to visiting the ER, when I got a
headache that kept getting worse. In the weeks and months to follow however, I
came to realize that yes, it was true and that in fact, I hadn't been
completely healthy all my life. The vision changes I'd experienced, when I'd
just stopped growing in 3rd grade, how I was frequently sick with a cold or the
flu - things I had just pushed aside as being flukes. Turns out, I had had this
tumor all my life and it was slowly growing and subtly affecting my life from
the minute I was born. Rather like Harry's magical powers had been sending him
to the top of a school building and turning his teacher's wig blue from a very
young age.

The
first book I picked up after I got home from the hospital was Harry Potter
and the Sorcerer's Stone
. I had been a fan of the series since I saw the
first movie in 2001. The day after the movie came out, I asked my mom for her
copies of the first four books. I was only eight, but I sat down and read them
all in about 5 days. I was hooked from then on. Harry's journey in his first
year at Hogwarts, from finding out that he was a wizard and had been one all
his life, to confronting and defeating Lord Voldemort, gave me a lot of hope in
those first few months after the diagnosis. Here was a boy who, like me, had no
idea that the weird things happening to him the first ten years of his life
were because of a strange entity, magic (or in my case, a brain tumor), that
inhabited his body. Here was a boy that was about the same age as me, but he
was able to beat his enemy, who was just as, if not more, deadly as a brain
tumor. If Harry could do it, so could I.

Unfortunately,
it wasn't that simple. My doctors had no idea what kind of tumor it was and it
was in a very dangerous spot, so surgery to remove it wasn't advisable, at
least not until we had no other option. We didn't even know if it was cancer or
not. An MRI I had a couple of months later showed that the tumor was
growing again but still, the doctors didn't want to operate because of the
risk. So I finished fourth grade and tried to enjoy the summer, even as I tried
not to imagine what could happen in the future.

When
the fifth book in the series came out, a couple weeks after school let out, I
was ecstatic. It was the first book that had come out since I'd been introduced
to the series, the first book that I got to rush to the store and wait in line
for. I started reading it the second I picked it up from the shelf. I only
reluctantly handed it over to the cashier, not because I wanted to steal it,
but because I wanted to read it! I finished it in ten hours and once again,
Harry's determination to conquer evil inspired me. Harry Potter and the
Order of the Phoenix
, to this day, has a very special place in my heart
because of how much it helped me in the years to come.

I
started fifth grade and for the first couple months it was great. I was still
having headaches and I was tired a lot but I was able to go to school and
function pretty normally, until the headaches started getting bad again. I
started missing a lot of school and I underwent some more tests. They showed
that fluid was building up in my brain and that's why the headaches were still
happening. The treatment for this is to surgically implant a tube called a
shunt that drains the fluid out of my brain. I wasn't nervous about the surgery
though because, once again, Harry and his friends came through for me. If Harry
could go through breaking and then re-growing all the bones in his arm and if
Hermione could survive being Petrified by a Basilisk, then I could handle a
routine surgery like this. I got through the surgery fine, except for some
vomiting but, as I kept reminding myself, it was better than burping up slugs.

The
surgery and the shunt drained the fluid from my head but I was still feeling
really tired and having headaches everyday, so for the rest of that year, I was
home schooled. By summer, my condition had deteriorated so much that I had to
be admitted into the hospital for intravenous nutrition. I was eleven years old
and I only weighed 51 pounds. I felt worse than ever. But my brain surgeon was
still unwilling to operate.

I
was. I begged him to operate. I begged my parents to beg him to operate. I just
wanted that thing out of my head. I didn't care what happened during the
surgery; I couldn't possibly get any worse. I just kept thinking of
Dumbledore's Army and how all those kids took their lives into their own hands
when the adults around them either couldn't or wouldn't do anything to help.
When Hermione and Ron persuaded Harry to teach his classmates Defense Against
the Dark Arts in their fifth year, they were merely doing what it took to save
their own lives. I was going to do the same.

It
worked. Eventually my doctors saw that I was getting too sick to wait any
longer. My brain surgeon was going to go in and at least take a look at the
tumor; if we knew what it was, then even if it couldn't be taken out during
surgery, at least we could formulate a treatment plan. On July 16th, 2004, I
underwent a five hour long craniotomy, where they opened up my skull and
successfully removed the tumor. It was only a few millimeters around and it was
found to be benign, but as George once said, "Size is no guarantee of power."
1
I had to stay in the hospital for a couple more weeks to
recover from the operation, but finally, I got to go home. I went back to
school and felt and looked relatively healthy, except for a scar that ran from
ear to ear. When one of my classmates shouted out "Scarhead!" at me for
everyone to hear on my first day back, I only laughed because that was the name
that Draco Malfoy called Harry during the first Quidditch match in their second
year. Frankly, I was delighted to be called a name that applied to Harry as
well. I figured I could just go back to living a normal life...it was over.

As
I was to learn though, that's not often how it works when you have a brain
tumor. Most kids whose brains go through trauma like that come away with
chronic health problems, either physical or emotional, that can last the rest
of their lives. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of the lucky ones. I wasn't in
school long before I had to go into home schooling again. I started to suffer
with headaches, fatigue, nausea, and dizziness every day once more. I was sick
all the time and no one could figure out why, since the tumor was gone and
nothing else seemed to be physically wrong with me. And because no one could
figure out why I felt so horrible, they started to think that maybe I was just
making it all up. My doctors, my teachers, my classmates and even my family
thought that it was all just a cry for attention. They repeatedly forced me to
attend school, but I just wasn't strong enough to go. After a few months, my
family came to acknowledge that I was truly not well, but the school system
wouldn't accept it. When they didn't succeed in getting me into school full
time, they told my parents not to bring me to school anymore, even on the days
I did feel well enough, not even to visit. As a result, I never saw my class
and one by one, all of my friends stopped calling or coming over.

By
the time 2007 rolled around, I was completely alone. I had no friends and I was
almost never strong enough to leave the house. I was now technically in middle
school and the new teachers and principal didn't do much to make my schooling
easier. I was still unable to attend class and the school's faculty were not
exactly sympathetic. Basically, I was home schooling myself. I literally read Harry
Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
back to back eight or nine times that
year because I felt like the fifteen-year-old Harry, even if he was fictional,
was the only one who came close to knowing how I felt at that time. We were
both being accused of lying by our classmates and even some of the adults in
our lives and we both had former friends deciding that we were crazy and that
we weren't worth the trouble anymore. Like Harry, I was angry all the time and
I was constantly on edge, snapping at everyone who even slightly annoyed me,
even if they were just trying to help.

This
went on for two more years before my family moved to another city, where the
school district was more understanding. I was put into a program for high
school students who can't attend school but want to graduate. I've now earned
my GED and I'm applying to a local community college, where I'll be studying
Psychology in the fall. My family and I attend a camp for children with life
threatening illness and their families every year and the people we've met
there are all the friends I need. It's called Camp Sunshine and it's in Maine,
USA. When my family and I pull into the driveway of that place, I feel exactly
like Harry did whenever he went back to Hogwarts after the summer. Like I'm
finally home and with the only people who understand me.

When
my doctors still couldn't find out why I continued to be so sick, I took it
upon myself to do some research and eventually I found that I have a relatively
rare disease that causes low blood pressure, which in turn causes ’ you guessed
it ’ headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue. I'm now on the right medicines
and even though I still struggle everyday, I am a much happier person than I
was five years ago.

All
of this happened because of a skinny boy with glasses and a lighting scar on
his head, who taught me about the best and worst parts of the human condition,
and how to deal with the latter. I firmly believe that because I became such an
avid fan at a young age, it ingrained in me the instinct that I had to be my
own advocate and that's why I had the courage to speak up and keep fighting for
answers.

Harry
and his friends (and even his enemies) have been the source of some of the best
times in my life and they have been my savior through some of the worst. When
I'm immersed in the books or movies, I feel like I'm with a dear friend. And in
a way, I am. For a long time, Harry (and Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Neville, and all
the other characters in Jo Rowling's world) was one of my only friends. Albus
Dumbledore˜s last words to Remus Lupin and Kingsley Shacklebolt ring
particularly true for me. "Harry is the best hope we have. Trust him." 2
I have trusted him all these years and I can't imagine my trust in him
would ever waver.

Things
are better now ¦ a lot better. Through the times when things weren't so great
though, I had Harry to turn to. For that, I am more grateful than I could ever
express.

Notes:

1.
Rowling, Order of the Phoenix, 100.

2.
Ibid., Deathly Hallows, 72.

Bibliography:

Rowling,
J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Scholastic Press,
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007.

”””.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Scholastic Press,
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2003.


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Finding Hogwarts

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