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Goeun Park: Myth debunked: Sadly, humans really don’t regenerate every seven years

Sometime between 11 a.m. and noon on Friday, I had a minor epiphany.

It came in the form of a mind-numbing headache, the kind that jolts down your spine and reminds you that yes, there is indeed a pinkish, squishy thing inside your skull.

To be honest, it wasn’t much of a life-changing insight. I’m aware that the word “epiphany” is typically reserved for great revelations, for divine inspiration, but…at the moment, it felt a little profound.

My not-really-an-epiphany was this. I had a brain tumor and it was going to kill me. I was going to keel over right then and there, in the middle of chemistry lecture.

The PowerPoint on enthalpy would be completely abandoned and the classroom would erupt in hysterical screams and sobs. Everyone would be so traumatized by my sudden death that the professor would have no choice but to cancel the upcoming midterm.

Then I’d forever be celebrated as the girl who sacrificed her life to save their GPAs.

In reality, that would never happen. After all, there are three inevitable things in life: death, taxes and midterms. That and I’m perfectly healthy and happy as I type this, several days later. But that Friday, for a terrifying second, biting the dust thanks to a freakish brain tumor was all I could think about.

The headache persisted for several minutes before it dissipated the same way it came, suddenly and unexpectedly. When my head quieted, it was as if the whole episode never happened. No bruises and no scars, just chemistry and a whole lot of confusion.

I assume my mental blackout wasn’t too much of a health concern since I felt fine right afterwards. But the questions still remain: What was that? And why was dying my first reaction?

I don’t know the answer. I don’t even remember a time when I wasn’t aware of my impermanence. Either my parents must have told me or I must have pieced it together myself. In my 6-year-old head, it might have gone like this: if flowers wilt and dogs go to dog heaven, people probably don’t last either…and now I’m hungry, is mom going to feed me soon?

Even now, I don’t think I’m capable of fully acknowledging it. I’ve been amusing myself on the fringe of this deep, dark realization that I will one day look like a Halloween decoration but right now, I still secretly think I’m invincible.

There’s a popular “fact” going around about how we replace every single one of our cells in seven years and essentially have a new body. In seven years, we die and become new. I thought that was the coolest thing in the world but, actually, that’s not true.

According to the always-reliable Internet, red blood cells live four months, skin cells live around 3 weeks, and brain cells live forever. Well, for as long as you live. The truth is not nearly as poetic as the seven year lifespan theory.

I don’t mean to be so macabre by rambling on such a depressing topic. Usually, I don’t even need to try to not think about how short everything is.

The day after the sham brain tumor scare, I went to my first cross-country meet as a spectator. Hundreds of runners gathered around the track and when the horn went off, the soil underneath me positively rumbled.

It was chilly by Southern California standards, overcast and mid-60s. The runners looped and looped around the course, and by mile four, they looked like they were actually dying. It was painful, watching how they gasped for air and strained for ground. But it was also…enthralling.

I’m not really sure why. It was just that those runners, who seemed seconds away from cardiac arrest, looked so much more alive than everyone on the sidelines.

Goeun Park graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and attends college in California.