By Parker Biggs, JMC2023

Sitting in the doctors office at 15 years old is never fun. It was a visit that I dreaded and still dread today. There was something different about this visit, however. There was almost an eeriness in the room as I awaited the return of my pediatrician. When he returned to the room, he was not his typical fun-natured self. With a straight face, he quickly told my mom and I that we needed to see a specialist with better MRI equipment.

This scared the hell out of me. Just a few weeks before I was preparing for my freshman track and field season and now I’m rushing off to another doctors office and don’t know exactly what is going on. I’d been suffering headaches at the back of my head for several weeks and my mom thought it would be a good idea to go check it out. I was thinking it was just early spring allergies, or possibly a sinus infection. So when I was told that I needed to go to a facility with the best MRI equipment, I quickly realized that this was no sinus infection.

After lying down under several x-ray and MRI machines, I waited to hear what was going on. I waited for a full day before my father was contacted. My parents sat me down and told me that I had a brain cyst. And according to the person on the other end of the call with my dad, it was large. I had no idea what a cyst was. But for the teenager who always tried to act tough around campus; it scared me. After several discussions with experts, my parents decided my best option was to have the cyst drained by a brain surgeon in Dallas.

In the weeks leading up to the operation, I found out lots about my friends, family and community. As a freshman, I really did not know the head track coach too well. I wasn’t a superstar and didn’t compete on varsity, so we didn’t have much interaction. But this man went out of his way to show support. Every day leading up to the surgery, he was asking for updates. He always made sure I knew that I was in his thoughts and prayers. He literally gave my phone number to every member on the team the night before I was in the hospital. I was receiving texts from the senior D1 football commits, whom I’d never spoken to. I was receiving calls from teammates that I hadn’t spoken with since elementary school. This along with the kind words from schoolteachers and principals really showed the strength of the community and helped me feel at ease as I was off to the hospital.

While I may have gone into the surgery with some confidence, the weeks following the operation may have been tougher. After a successful surgery, I was out of school for a couple weeks as I recovered from the pain in my head and neck. Things were different upon my return. I was out of athletics indefinitely. So the security that I had always felt from having teammates that backed me up could be gone, I thought. And on top of that, a big chunk of my hair was shaved off the back of my head, where I had a 6 inch nasty scar staring right in the eyes of fellow classmates walking behind me. I didn’t want to return to school like this. No more girls, no more touchdowns, no more popularity. My mind was racing. But I toughened up and returned to the Jenks High School Freshman Academy. I immediately realized how great this community was. While coaches, parents and administrators were always making sure I was doing well, my friends treated me the same as they always did. They didn’t ditch me because of my gnarly scar or not want to hangout because I was no longer on the football team. Normalcy is what I needed during that time. I never asked for it, but it was as if those closest with me knew exactly what I needed.

Being a freshman in high school is scary. Being a freshman in high school having a brain surgery is even scarier. The strength of a community helped pushed me through it, however. It didn’t have to be that way. That coach had no reason to go out of his way to show support, but he did. My classmates could have easily picked on me for my shaved hair, but they didn’t. It has been about five and a half years, yet I am still thankful for how I was treated by my community.

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