On August 28th this year I celebrated my third rebirthday. Usually around this time of year I get extremely emotional. It is like my annual time of reflection, but with school wrapping up and being so busy with work, I almost didn’t have time to even to go down memory lane or maybe I just didn’t want to.
But recently my friend’s Dad was admitted to Lunder 10 and suddenly there are all those emotions that I somehow was avoiding. When you walk through the first double doors on that top floor, there’s a little waiting room. I’ll never forget the first day I sat there. It was a Saturday. The day after my primary care physician had called me crying telling me, “I think you have leukemia.” And there I was sitting in the waiting room just crying with my Mom by my side. I couldn’t stop the tears, I was numb, and I was in shock. Little 22 year old me was sitting there waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was thinking that I had a few weeks tolive. Why else would I be there on a Saturday? I was so scared. It was such a surreal moment and then from that moment on it became this day-to-day thing. You suddenly have multiple doctor’s appointments a week, your fear of needles quickly becomes a thing of the past, and you suddenly can read your CBC counts like you’re a medical professional. It’s one test at a time, one appointment at a time, and just one day at a time.
Turns out I just had a doctor that wanted to see me ASAP because that’s just the kind of amazing doctor that he was. My initial prognosis seemed easy—A targeted chemotherapy pill that was going to kill the cancer cells, but not my healthy ones. Easier said than done, but luckily my doctor had a back up plan who just happened to be my baby sister. Many people often say I don’t know how you did it, and my answer is always, “I just did, and if you were me, you would do it to.” For me, treatment may have been the easiest part of all this. There’s really no other choice than moving forward. When I was on Lunder I felt like I was finally moving towards better health after a year of my failed treatment. But then as time goes on, things come to light that you never really thought about, because before you were just in the moment. The last 3 years of my life have been hard. Some how you have to pick up the pieces and put your life back together again. But things are different. Some days are a battle between being upset over the fact that you don’t feel like yourself and then you feel guilty because you feel like you don’t have the right to be upset because you are here, breathing on this earth.
Recovery is a rollercoaster. My thyroid stopped working, I went into menopause or also known as primary ovarian failure (let me tell you, not pretty). But some way, some how you just have to keep going. Slowly things come back together. Your hair grows out into the waves you always wanted when you were little, your hormones are finally on the right dosing so you don’t feel like a hot emotional mess 24/7, and you learn the tricks for dealing with dry skin, your eyeballs sticking to your eyelids, and every other weird post treatment symptom. It becomes your new normal, and you do it. You keep moving on. And somewhere within those days, months, and years you turn into a different person. It’s still you, but a different version of you.
I walk every year at Light the Night for not only myself, but for all the patients who are sitting there crying in those waiting rooms, for all the patients in isolation on Lunder doing their figure 8 laps with a mask and gloves, and for all the patients who were taken from this world far too soon. Cancer treatments are getting better, but we’re still not there. But I like to think of it as one day at a time, and if we keep going, some day we will get there.
If you can donate a morning coffee’s worth or little to a lot more, I will appreciate it more than I could ever express. If you’d like to walk with me this October 19th, I’d love that too. It’s a magical, emotional night, and I’d love for anyone to share it with me. And maybe you’ll feel a little extra hope among those lanterns to believe that someday there will be a day that when a little 22-year-old girl gets that call, she won’t have to feel so scared in that waiting room and she will know that it’s all going to be okay.
Stronger every day,