Valerie Fund patient, Olivia’s story continues in this blog post.
2019 is here and I don't really know how to feel about it.
You see, on New Year’s Day of 2018, I was a newly diagnosed cancer patient. I had just underwent surgery, a bone marrow biopsy, several different scans, and was barely conscious from all of the pain medication pumping into my body. I was about to embark on nine months of agonizing treatment, both physically and emotionally. Although most of my memory from those first few days is very hazy; what I can vividly recall is sobbing over the fact that I just didn’t want to do it.
And by “it,” I meant a lot of things. I wanted to fast forward through whatever treatment was in store for me, I wanted to skip out on any and all pain and suffering, and I didn’t want to be dependent on other people. To put it frankly, I just didn’t want to be a cancer patient.
But whether or not I chose to acknowledge it right away, I knew what lied ahead of me. I knew that I was going to look and feel sick; I knew that I was going to miss the rest of high school; I knew that I wouldn’t be going to college in the fall. And I knew that this was a disease that could kill me.
Can’t someone just knock me out and wake me up when all of this is over?
I asked myself—and probably every single nurse or doctor I came into contact with—this question whenever things got hard. Every day I spent immobile on the couch because moving meant I would vomit; every time I felt the pain of hunger because mouth sores prevented me from eating days on end; every ambulance ride, every midnight emergency room visit, every time I had to face the brutal reality of my disease, I wished for a fast forward button.
Because if I could just get past all of that stuff, then life would get better…right?
Image provided by the author, Olivia.
Let me be clear, my life has gotten much better in so many different ways since finishing chemo and being declared NED (no evidence of disease). I don’t have to stay in the hospital anymore, I don’t feel sick, I visit The Valerie Fund Center less frequently, I can start exercising again, I can work, and yes…my hair is growing back.
This is what I wanted to skip ahead to ever since being diagnosed at the end of 2017. This is it! I made it!
So why do I still feel so overwhelmed?
After spending nearly a year as a cancer patient, stepping back into the world is shocking. For nine months my body was being hit with aggressive chemotherapy drugs, proton radiation therapy, and regular radiation therapy. And although I didn’t like going through all of this, I took great comfort in knowing that something was being done to kill the damn cancer.
But now, apart from the trial drug I’m still on, it’s all over. I’ve finished the treatment and all I can do is wait and see. Am I okay or will I relapse? Will I be okay for a few years and then relapse? It’s a gut-wrenching position to be in…living life with the fear and anticipation that there might be a ticking time bomb about to go off at any second.
Are you serious!? How screwed up is that?
So do you see why I’m having trouble with the new year? 2019 is supposed to be the year that I move on with my life. It’s the year that I get back into shape, work, and eventually start my freshman year of college. But how can I do all of those things when the stress of having had cancer is constantly weighing down on me?
It never occurred to me that I would struggle so much in remission and right now it just feels like a vast area that I have only begun to scratch the surface of. Time moves so quickly; it scares me.
I don’t know if I’m ready for 2019 and all that it represents. But I know that it’s here, and as daunting as that may be, ultimately I’m lucky to be alive. And just like in 2018, I’ll get through it.
ABOUT THE VALERIE FUND: After their nine-year-old daughter Valerie succumbed to cancer in 1976, Sue and Ed Goldstein were determined that no family should have to travel great distances to receive state-of-the-art medical care. Today, more than 6,000 children with cancer and blood disorders benefit immeasurably by receiving their medical treatment close to home in a child-centered environment. The Valerie Fund ensures they do not have to rely on insurance reimbursements to receive a range of customized therapeutic services that enhance their quality of life. For more information, please visit www.thevaleriefund.org.