Beating a Death Sentence – 17 Years Later…
Seventeen years ago today I was told I wouldn’t live to see the age of twenty-two. Since then, there have been a lot of trials and triumphs. There have been hopeless moments when fear took over and temporarily directed my course. Then somehow a day arrived when the light shone in. Hope introduced itself and I reached out to take its hand. Yes, I let go a few times, but another friend – perseverance – was already living within.
That twenty-one year old girl sitting in a hospital Emergency Room still shows up from time to time; a reminder not to take this gift of survivorship for granted. Sometimes, I let myself dwell. There were two other battles I had won before the day I was told I’d finally lose. And I recall how it all started three years prior sitting across from a doctor who no matter how schooled and professional he was on the outside, seemed to be falling apart on the inside while telling a college freshman she was sick. I remember that first Valentine’s Day Chemo. I remember Dr. T and our intimate discussions. I remember the tears when my blood cell counts were too low for chemo. And Cindy, the best chemo nurse who’s ever lived. I remember a second diagnosis and the two long awaited remissions…then the death sentence. But what I remember most is that even on the darkest days, I wasn’t dying from cancer. I was LIVING with it. Yes, living with a horrible disease that wanted to kill me, but still LIVING.
I will never forget those years and the limitations; I don’t want to. Still somehow as the years pass, though fear will rear its head from time to time, the ache of that time continues to fade. Gratitude flourishes and I remind myself we are not guaranteed a tomorrow. I unwrap the gift of today and even thank my worst enemy for being my greatest teacher.