When you’re younger, you have a certain mindset on how your life with play out. Mine for example was graduate high school, go away to college and earn my nursing degree. Possibly be married by 25 (optimistic, I know). I had the whole thing played out in my mind but what I didn’t have intertwined into my hopes and dreams of being diagnosed with cancer, not once but twice. I was 18 when my life was flipped upside down. I learned I had stage two hodgkins lymphoma and I learned this three weeks before I graduated high school. From then I endured months of chemotherapy all while watching my friends get ready to go away to college and live the “dorm” life. To say I was disappointed was an understatement.
Despite my feelings of being “left behind” I was in remission and was able to start college at a local community college for the second semester. So what? I was only a semester behind my peers; I could handle that, right? Wrong. A year and a half went by and I relapsed with stage 4, just as I was beginning my nursing career at a four-year university. Now I was going to be REALLY behind my peers. I endured more chemotherapy, a stem-cell transplant and radiation. Not to mention while all my friends were celebrating their 21st’s by going to bars and throwing parties, I spent mine sick in the hospital with my nurses. As I was stuck in those four walls of my hospital room, I couldn’t help but notice that my friends were all continuing their lives (as they should) and mine was put on hold. By then, my friends were finishing their junior year of college, setting up internships that would lead to a full-time job and living their life as I thought I would.
Now, I am two years out from my last radiation treatment, still in remission and attending nursing school at Saginaw Valley State University. I’ve always felt “behind” in terms of my schooling and life; I’m 23 and most of the students in my nursing cohort are 19-20. My sister who is two years younger will be graduating with her bachelors a year before I will. I have never felt more behind than I am now. Most of my friends are all moving out of state for their partners and careers, while I’m enjoying my summer, going back to college in the fall for my normal routine. I sometimes feel as if I will always be with this 20-something, still in school and living at home engulfed with school debt. But I am not. I am a two-time cancer survivor. I went through the hardest part in my life so far beginning at 18 years old. Sometimes I feel that I am behind in life because of cancer. Sometimes I feel as if I will never move forward from this spot I am in now. But this is not true. Throughout my journey with cancer I have learned that life is not a consistent, chronological, predictive occurrence. Life is messy, with lots of bumps in the road, setbacks and unexpected events that can turn your world upside down.
Wish Upon A Teen is an organization that was there for me when I was sick and is still cheering me on today. My room would not have been adorned with Red Wings decorations and personalized items making my stay a little bit easier. Organizations like this show those suffering from life-threatening illnesses that there are people out there, who care and are rooting for you. Cancer has taught me to never give up. Cancer has shown me that everyone has a story and to treat people with empathy and compassion. Cancer has taught me to always be thankful for these bumps in the road and thankful for this incredible life. I will forever be thankful to my friends, Wish Upon A Teen and most importantly my family for standing by my side, every step of the way. Though I sometimes feel behind in life, I will ALWAYS remember that everything happens for a reason.