I met you for the first me when I was seventeen, second semester senior in high school and months away from graduating. I had heard whispers about you before; you had met a few of my family members. One of my grandmothers had met you too late and paid the ultimate price and the other had met you just in time and still suffers today. Before I met you face to face, I felt you lurking in the background, I wasn’t really sure if it was really you or what my doctor telling me you were, muscle pain. But sure enough after a few scans, they found you and I was devastated.
Once I met you face to face, I was afraid of you, afraid of what you would do to me. I was also frustrated and furious. Why had you shown up? What did I do to deserve you? Will I lose my leg? Will I even survive? As I thought of these questions, I could hear my heartbeat as if I was standing next to a speaker at a concert. The sound was so deafening that even my tinnitus now wouldn’t even compare.
The day after we met, I drove to school and waited in my car for a few minutes just thinking. Just thinking of what was going to happen. All of these thoughts that had been swirling in my mind on repeat. I hadn’t realized that thinking of you made me sob. I just sat there sobbing alone in my car, envious of the others on the outside that seemed so carefree. For the first time in my life, I was truly afraid of dying; I imagined you, a dark scary figure slowly walking towards me in a dark alleyway in a slow, suspenseful horror movie way.
A week passed, and I was ready to start getting rid of you. I felt more optimistic about what the experience would be like. Your archenemy, chemotherapy (chemo) became my best friend for the next eight months. Usually we would spend the night together and after all the “fun”, the next day would be a horrible cycle of feeling awful, throwing up, and peeing what felt like a thousand gallons of water.
There were ups and downs, laughs and cry’s but I never forgot what my brother said to me “This is going to be the hardest thing you well ever do in your life and it is going to suck, but you are strong and you can and will get through it.” After that, I focused on the optimistic side of my journey, so I remember my time fighting you as mostly fun because after that, you didn’t scare me.
The time I spent with you and chemo in the hospital, I was missing school and my friends. It was eye opening to see which people stayed with me and those who didn’t. Along the way I had lost one of my best friends. At first, I blamed you for keeping me from her, but then I realized our friendship had long been over. How many times I had supported her in her problems, the second she heard that I was afraid of dying she left.
But, that’s life… there was nothing I could do about it. I imagine life the waves washing sand, some things that are meant to wash away will and some that are strong enough will stay where they are supposed to be.
As chemo was helping me get rid of you, I was meeting nurses and doctors that I would be thankful for meeting. The days that I would be sitting in the hospital, you brought me closer to expressing myself through art, learning more about an industry that I wanted to work in the future, and understanding my inner self and what I am capable of.
So… In all honesty I want to thank you. Don’t get me wrong, I still wish I hadn’t met you, but I did, and I can’t change that fact. You made me realize how much I wanted to help people like me and become a health care professional. You made me realized how much I had been neglecting my extended family and now I can shamelessly say I love and miss them. You made me realize that whenever something feels impossible, I just have to press on and eventually I WILL GET THROUGH IT.
You made me realized that having had cancer doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. There are things we can learn from the experience and move on in a positive way.
All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer. If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you! Please submit your idea at https://elephantsandtea.cdn-pi.com/contact/submissions/.