For many, the fall season brings memories of pumpkin spice, sweaters and trees changing colors. For me, I remember the day I was told I was free of cancer and chemotherapy treatment. When I was nineteen years old, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a blood cancer. I had a lump on my throat that didn’t alarm me anymore than thinking that my glands had swollen from strep throat. I was told at the beginning that they had caught it early enough so I was at minimal risk of death. The chemo was brutal physically and mentally. I had a rare reaction from chemotherapy that made my body shut down it’s digestive system for a month and sent me to the hospital for what felt like an eternity. In the hospital there was a mishap, I was given an extra dose of antibiotics and my liver almost failed, which would have resulted in my death. It was an experience I wouldn’t change for anything but also, wouldn’t wish on a single soul.
I struggle talking about this experience in person without tearing up. However, I feel it is important to discuss so that people are conscious that it can happen to anyone. I want to encourage everyone to get checked up frequently. I also want to encourage people to reach out to those they know with illnesses. Another thing even I didn’t realize was how horrific it is to re-enter the real world as a young person after such a traumatic experience like cancer. I hope to help soothe other’s transitions.
The day before Thanksgiving in 2016 I was finally scheduled my last chemotherapy. I was so excited to be done with that evil stuff that was saving my life while ripping me apart.
I was so tired of being stuck at home, sick and alone. I wanted more than anything to return to my old life and be back to my old self. Little did I know, that life was long gone. When I moved back to the school I was going to, I was shell shocked. Every instinct I used to have, I no longer related to. My old friends and I couldn’t relate. My roommates, who were strangers, told me to “put the past in the past,” and one even tried to fist fight me only weeks after my last chemo treatment (I called her out for stealing from me and she got aggressive about it). It felt like I was being punished for surviving. Then the survivors guilt, depression and anxiety began. I didn’t want to do anything, go to class, call my family, anything. I was completely and utterly miserable. However, I knew I didn’t want to drop out and be even further behind in school so, somehow, I did it. As soon as that semester ended though… ya girl hit the YEET the heck out of there. I listened to my body and knew it was time for a change. I realized what I once thought of as normal and comfortable, simply wasn’t my life anymore.
I went home and took classes that made me excited, at Dallas Community College. Drawing, design and photography. Nine hour semester, babyyyyyy. Just what I needed; a break! Two weeks into those classes I knew I had to change my major to design, it called to my soul. When I was at community college my professor told me about a study abroad trip the following summer in Scotland. Y’all, I’m hella Scottish, it had to happen! I applied to UNT for the fall semester and, spoiler alert, I got in! I worked my booty off for the coin and I went to Scotland! I met some of the most amazing and talented people I know to this day. Things started to look so much brighter for me.
Currently, I’m a CVAD student in this mean green world, loving it. I still struggle with how chemo damaged my body in many ways. Cancer has forced me to live a healthier and more conscious lifestyle. I see a therapist and heavily practice meditation to help me live with the depression and anxiety I still have. I adore having short hair and have been humbled beyond belief by the whole experience. I tell this story not to give the impression that all diagnosis go this way, but to give other fighters and survivors something to even slightly relate to. It is very lonely when you get diagnosed at a young age and I want others to know that it’s more than okay to feel that way. It’s okay to move on from friendships, relationships, careers, or switch lanes in your education. Be opened with your story when you can, you never know who’s you may inspire.
If you know someone who is sick here are some easy little ways to let them know you care:
– Get them a blanket, sweater, jacket.. anything cozy and soft.
– Text them randomly and frequently, even if they don’t want to talk it’s always nice to be thought of.
– Send them silly animal videos/ pictures
– If they are willing to answer, ask them questions about how everything is going medically. I personally always wanted to talk about it but it seemed to make most people uncomfortable, so I felt like I couldn’t.
– Finally, be kind. Compliment their selfies always, tell them they’re so strong and be supportive of their many emotions. Think about what makes you feel loved and do it for others.
I hope you all have as much to be thankful for as I do this Thanksgiving. I’ll be two years cancer free and more alive than ever. Thank you for reading my story, I hope it helps.