When I was eight months old I was diagnosed with a type of leukemia called Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia (ALL). So treatment began – for the next two and a half years. As far as therapies go, I did relatively well, as is obvious given the fact that I am alive today to write this.
Throughout this time I spent a significant amount of time in the hospital. Most of my earliest memories take place at the hospital and my doctors, nurses, physical therapists, etc. became my extended family. After the treatment was over, I continued to be a medically fragile child. This was probably somewhat related to having had leukemia and treatment, but it may also have just been the way I was made.
Fast forward a few years. When I was 17 I’d been feeling run down a lot and thought I’d been pushing myself too much. I went to the hospital and once again, after a battery of tests, I was told that I had leukemia again.
When I questioned my doctors about the relationship between my childhood bout with ALL and this bout with ALL, nobody could confirm a direct relation. They instead felt that it was more likely that I was just prone to getting cancer. After diagnosis, I started treatment right away. I began the induction therapy, and I achieved remission after a few weeks. After that, I began consolidation therapy, and received several courses of radiation. From there I went to the maintenance therapy phase where I was treated for the next 2 ½ years.
When I finished my treatment I was about 20 years old. A good fraction of my life had been spent in hospitals, fighting for my life, but I never let that stop me from living. During this time I had started university. Over the next several years I was able to complete my education and find my dream job.
While I was still in university, I experienced my 3rd battle with cancer. I started treatment again. This time using a different drug regimen. I was able to achieve one final remission, at which time I was told I was going to need a bone marrow transplant. I was receiving maintenance therapy again and at this time, my siblings were being tested to see if they would be a good donor. The transplant took place on March 10, 2006. This was the day my life changed. Although after the transplant I developed Graft vs Host Disease, I still felt lucky to have been able to live life cancer free. After recovery from the transplant, I went into a good period in my life. I started my family, I developed my career further. I lived life with an appreciation that is unique to someone who has come so close to death.
Then in December 2015, I developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. I decided after a while it was time to see a doctor, who after a series of diagnostics figured out that I had developed non-small cell lung cancer. I’d lived almost 10 years cancer free when suddenly I was thrust back into the world of hospitals, chemo, and the likes. I completed my treatments in December. However, since that time, my cancer has returned. On January 16, 2017, I was told that there was nothing more that could be done. I am going to die.
That’s pretty much the end of my story – medically, but the rest of my life has yet to be written. In the time I have been given, I have learned that life is a precious gift. I am using the last of these days to go on a journey. The journey may not take me very far physically, but spiritually and emotionally, I will soar miles.
This is my list, call it a bucket list if you’d like. I call it much bigger than that. I call it growth, light, and opportunity. This is my last chance to experience life. I plan to live it fully, totally, and unreservedly, until the end. Welcome to my journey.