Since I was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous #Leukemia #CML when I was 17 years old, over a decade ago, I remember my life seemed to revolve around hospital appointments, blood tests, scans, bone marrow aspirations. I had to consciously plan my day so that I have at least one full meal and ensure a bottle of water and chemotherapy (#gleevec) tablets are packed in my bag.
Where before I was an over-achieving student, my body now slowed me down. You know those all nighters spent cramming for an exam, or writing that paper, or preparing a presentation? From then on, I would be plagued by constant fatigue, flu/cough and struggling with chemo side effects like vomiting and diarrhea.
To everyone else, I maintained my bubbly, cheerful, friendly, energetic persona but now I was coming late to class, begging lecturers for extensions on deadlines and so forth. And my once forbearing and diplomatic persona was not so lenient anymore.
I wasn’t the typical #cancer patient. I wasn’t deathly pale (though I was far lighter skinned compared to before my diagnosis and chemo treatment) and sported a full head of raven black hair. Plus I didn’t have to go to the hospital for chemo treatments when mine was concealed conveniently in my bag to take “on-the-go”. I looked just like every other student. I remember one lecturer going so far as to say I was using my illness as an excuse. Hmm. I will chalk that one up to ignorance. Then came another mid-semester drop out. Each time it got harder and harder to return back to my studies.
I am sure you can relate to how such physical and health limitations begin to define us in such a permanent way. We don’t even realize when it becomes a part of who we are. I had gotten admitted to medical school just after I was hospitalized the first time I was diagnosed. I got to defer admission to medical school, but after my health took a hit my first year there, my doctor didn’t allow me to resume.
I relocated closer to my parents and would still pursue my dreams of being an emergency/disaster response doctor for several years to come in one pre-med course after another. Each time, I would transfer over to what I thought was a less intensive course.
I had to look for another degree to graduate with. It took me 9 years from when I graduated high school to obtain my college (university) degree. I had to leave behind my career dream a long time ago. I graduated with a management degree in Human Resource Management
Now, even in #remission, I’m afraid to push myself so I don’t break down. I can’t seem to find something to be passionate about, due to this deep-seated fear that it will not work out. I keep expecting one bad break after another and when good things happen, I am beyond grateful.
One thing I am free from however is living life as a if I am a ticking time bomb. This “tip-toe” kind of living when one believes they are living on borrowed time. When I got diagnosed, I was acutely aware that my cousin suffered from #leukemia for several years before dying at age 18. For so long I went through life one day at a time. I couldn’t even picture myself graduating, not to talk of getting married.
When I finally graduated university, after several interruptions and relocations, it was a huge breakthrough and victory God gave me as this wonderful man blindsided me with a ring on my finger. I didn’t even know where to begin wedding planning because I never spent a moment browsing social media for my dream wedding gown or wedding gown receptions. Time to take a leap of faith.
I have had amazing breakthroughs (miracle conception, pregnancy & journey into motherhood) since getting married and mentally am working through and moving beyond all that now. But I wanted to write down and attempt to capture how totally hopeless life can seem, or how one’s diagnosis can colour everything about one’s life if they choose not to actively take charge of their diagnosis and more importantly their emotional and mental state of mind.
Instead of letting our health challenges define us, or be the boss of us, why don’t we take charge? Arm ourselves with information, seek help, get proactive in selecting a team to help you overcome. It is said what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. But even if it purportedly will kill you, will it hurt to go down with a fight and a champion’s smile on your face? Better yet, why not be determined to beat the odds and be part of the 0.01% that do survive?! Never underestimate the potent value of just a little Faith
Are you struggling with any issue, not something as ominous as cancer but issues like asthma, body image issues, eating disorders, a bad wrist/back, anything that serves as a limitation? Are you so nervous to talk with people that it is really affecting your mannerisms and happiness? Even if you have technically or physically gotten over an illness, are there still lingering issues affecting other areas of your life? Please I would love to hear your own story and where you are at the moment in your journey.
P.s. about The coffee pictures in this post … 😀 Maybe I just want you to remember that cup of coffee you left sitting on your table and come sit and read my thoughts. Come have a little chat with me