It all shattered into a million diminutive pieces, at least, that’s what my world felt like, after hearing the emergency room doctor tell me I was being admitted into the hospital because my CT scan showed possible tumors. I was devastated, and heartbroken, there was no way I had cancer. I was working my brand-new job, just celebrated my one-year anniversary with my boyfriend, working out every day and taking care of myself, I was living life like any normal 24-year-old would. But, I knew the night sweats, constant itching, fevers and fatigue, wasn’t normal and there was something seriously wrong.
On July 27th, 2018, I was officially diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma, stage 3B. There were tumors in my neck, chest and it spread to my liver. I was terrified and all I could think about was, what happens next and if this was it for me. Treatment had started almost immediately, there wasn’t any time to stop and think, everything just started happening so fast. The week of being diagnosed, I had to withdraw from school and my boyfriend and I were just moving into our new apartment together. To say the least, life was hectic and very much unbalanced.
As time was instantaneously moving by, with doctor’s appointments and fertility treatments, I was also trying to pick up all the pieces of my life to mend them back together. Life felt like it was ripped away from me over night and I couldn’t come to grips with it. Depression and anxiety became my new friends and I struggled coping with life in general.
As treatment progressed, my hair began to fall. I cried for days trying to figure out how I would look without my hair, how people would see me without it and I wondered, would my melon head really look good bald? It crushed me the day I decided to cut and shave it all off. People would reassure me that it’s just hair and that it will grow back but part of my identity was gone. My femininity and sexuality aren’t the same without my long blonde hair. It is still a struggle of mine to get ready for the day and to look in the mirror. Not because I am unhappy with the way that I look, but because I don’t recognize this girl anymore. She’s different and so much more beautiful now, she’s glowing.
With this diagnosis, I had to find my purpose and knew I would become stronger from this. After all, this was happening to me for a reason, right? I received so much love from friends and family, it was intoxicating. I remind myself that cancer does not make me any less worthy of love and neither does losing my hair. I am still worthy and being diagnosed with cancer has made me see the world so differently, much softer and delicate now.
Continuing to pick up the shattered pieces, there is more intention and actual meaning in doing so. Cancer has taught me to let go of all things no longer serving me a positive and supportive life. I live life and do things because they make me happy and I couldn’t be happier. I reassure myself that this is just part of my story that I get to share with others, so that I can help others. That is truly my purpose in life, is to help others and show them to love themselves, because after all we are our biggest commitments. Taking care of my body and slowing down has been one of my biggest priorities. Life will never be the same for me and I am okay with that. Cancer will not knock me down and I will show up stronger and better than before all of this. In the end, it’s important to give yourself the love that you so desperately want to give to others. Loving yourself is the best thing you could ever do, just remember to be gentle, you are doing the best you can.