It’s hard for me to believe this day has finally come; tomorrow morning I am having surgery to remove my port! It is a day that I have been looking forward to since this all began. I will leave the hospital with no more physical ties to this horrible disease. I have so many people to thank for getting me through this nightmare.
However, I can’t possibly begin to thank everyone. I will start with Jackie and my mom, who, this past August, sat stoically watching the 24 inches of my hair being chopped as short as it could go, before any of the treatments started. While I braced myself quietly by focusing on watching the scissors and hid my own devastation, their silent tears said everything that day, and I was lucky to have those two people there to support me; two people who would become essential supporters during my journey in the upcoming ominous months.
The list of people that have truly shown kindness, even when it wasn’t comfortable or easy, dropping any inhibitions and just really showing up, is beyond what I ever could have expected. These people have taught me how love is meant to be.
To my lifelong best friends Katie, Maddie, Jackie, and Katherine for being sisters to me; I know I will never be without them. To the friends that I have made at William & Mary, who came to visit, sent care packages and letters, and always kept me updated on their lives and distracted me with their humor; I can’t believe we’ve only known each other for a year. I absolutely cannot wait to get back to school to see you all. To my mother’s friends, Jana, Diane, Cathy, Melissa, Lisa, Michelle, and Jackie for treating me like a sister, daughter, and friend all rolled into one. Their constant vigilance through their presence, lunches and dinners, and little surprises have lifted me up when I needed it. To my cousins Gillian and Kiera who have both taken me under their wing, each in their own way. To my aunt Sherry and “aunt” Terry for checking on me almost daily through my mom and aunt Karen.
To my Dad and my brother who provide a backbone and a quiet understanding, never asking anything from me yet giving me anything I’ve asked. To my aunt Karen, fellow survivor, who has held my hand, and my mother’s, every single step of the way. She has understood every emotion and has given me strength and constant support from the very beginning. She is, without doubt, my second mother.
To my mom who hugged me tightly on July 29th and told me through her tears (and mine) that I would never be alone through any of this. I knew she meant every word and truly she’s never left my side. She slept in a hospital chair overnight, laid in bed with me while I cried, walked with me every single day for the last 8 months to keep me active and distracted. She sat with me every other week, as poisons were pumped into my chest port, organizing my medical information and always carrying (in her Kate Spade tote of course) anything I could ever need. She, carefully and quietly, drove to and from Annapolis and swallowed her fears while I slept, usually gray and pale. She never forgot a medication or injection or preventive treatment. My mom carefully packed and overnighted my hair to the women in Oregon who lovingly made a replica wig with my very own hair. She carefully balanced my diet and nutrition and contacted my trainer in early August to give him free reign, keeping me well and as strong as I could be. She gave me constant reassurance, and during my worst days, she gave me purpose to persevere. She taught me right from the start that we all leave a legacy and I must decide what my legacy would be from this horrible twist. She knew I could be strong, graceful, and inspirational. She reminds me every day, but it is almost impossible to put into words the thank you that she deserves.
How can I possibly thank the doctors who literally saved my life; from Dr. Jackson, the ENT who originally found the mass, to Dr. Maurice Smith who hugged me, prayed, and carefully removed biopsy samples, millimeters from my lungs and heart, and readied me for the next step, to Dr. Bromer who gently took me through two horrible weeks of fertility treatments and saved a ridiculous amount of healthy eggs for a future, to Dr. Weng, who, from the very start, attacked this disease as though I was his own daughter. He has researched, collaborated, and fought for the absolute best treatment to ensure a long healthy life with few side effects. He’s given me hope and confidence that I will be well. I can never truly thank him enough. I have been blessed.
As I wait for surgery in the morning, I think about how I’ve lived like a shadow of myself this past year and now look toward the days ahead as though I am walking back into my life again. I’ve been so afraid to hope, to plan, to love my life. As I leave the past behind, I feel alive, strong, and filled with love. No one knows what the future holds, but I know how very grateful I am to be given one.