I’m 20 years old, I work almost full time, I didn’t know anyone when I moved here 6 months ago, my family is a 6 hour drive away, and I have cancer. Life has not been very easy lately, but somehow, I’ve passed my 100th day of chemo mark last week and today I received a promotion at a company that is giving me incredible opportunities to learn, add value and build lasting friendships.
Cancer sucks. My bones hurt and I feel queasy and incredibly weak, but somehow I’ve made it through 8 cycles of chemo.
I don’t have any hair on my head or eyebrows on my face. Face ID on my iPhone X doesn’t even recognize me sometimes.
And sometimes neither do I.
I look in the mirror and I can’t believe this is my life right now. I’ve been to dozens of doctors appointments, scans, and chemo infusions on my own. It’s hard to remember what it feels like to live life with all my health. To be able to run, work out, stay out late, travel, commit to things, and not have multiple doctors appointments every week seems like a fantasy.
I’ve never felt so challenged in my life, but it’s lead to many life lessons.
The first thing I learned was the impression I had made on most the people I’ve ever interacted with.
I used to think that few people truly understood me or thought good things about me. On my first day of chemo, I made a post on Instagram about my diagnosis and a good majority of people I knew sent encouraging messages calling me “one of the strongest people they knew” and told me I was in their thoughts. I have a massive stack of cards from strangers, distant family members, mentors, and even one of my teachers from high school. I’ve learned how lucky I am to have so much support and people I can turn to when it feels like the world is crumbling apart.
The second thing I’ve learned is to appreciate my health. I wish I could commit to an art class once a week, join a sports league, be at work every day, explore more of the city, go to the gym and so on. I wish my body didn’t limit me now and I hope that I’ll always appreciate the gift of being able to do what I want to do every day once I get my health back.
The final thing I learned was how in life you can adapt to any situation that comes your way, you just have to give it time.
I’ve been having a round of chemo every 2 weeks for the past 4 months. At this point cancer is just a routine. I know what side effects are heading my way on the 3rd day vs the 5th day vs the 7th day and so on. I know to take Claritin to help with the bone pain, drink ginger tea for the nausea, and to take an epsom salt bath for the fatigue. I literally countdown the days until my last chemo every day, but I would say it was much harder in the very beginning than it is now. Sometimes in life when it seems like everything is going to shit, you just have to trust that over time you’ll get through it and be a better person because of it.
I’ve got 2 more months of chemo and then I will hopefully be cancer free. I look to the future with more optimism than ever before.