The day that the doctor told me that I had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma was quite surreal. I had not been feeling well and a doctor told me I needed psychiatric help several years prior. The old self prepared for the battle of her life, put on her big girl pants and met cancer head-on. I continued to work and would occasionally tap dance for other patients at the hospital to make them smile; however, as the treatments progressed, my body began to breakdown. It wasn’t being bald that bothered me, or losing the eyelashes, eyebrows, and nose hair. It was the lack of vitality–the pain in my joints with every step taken, the nausea, and every part of my body felt like I was hit by a truck. It was an everyday struggle to live. When I would catch a glimpse of self in the mirror, I wasn’t sure who was looking back.
After a few rounds of chemo treatments, I began having additional problems. The wonderful nurse Donna and the PA Linda would poke fun at the fact I was often the last one there due to some rash or extreme dizziness. I was allergic to something in the chemo; they began to adjust the chemo cocktail. I realized we really are all just science projects.
I remember that day vividly. I sat in the waiting room, eyes swollen (they would barely open), skin red and inflamed, every bone in my body aching. At this point, I could barely walk due to the Neulasta shots (they build up your white blood cells). Frail and weak, I prayed for strength, not sure how much more I could endure. After this particular treatment I recall trying to stand up to leave; my heart was racing. I couldn’t see clearly or breathe well. The next thing I knew Donna is yelling, “Call 911. Get Linda!” I reached my hand over to my partner, fearful of what was happening. Linda said “Do you want me to save your life or you want to hold hands?” Then it hit me, I was really going to die in this chair. Fear came across me like a tidal wave. In that moment I closed my eyes, brought my gaze inward and began to pray. What happened next was beautiful; it was the first time I completely surrendered and let go. For me it was the ultimate surrender. I felt like I was held in a gigantic hug and I was no longer afraid. The next thing I knew I woke up in the hospital. They told me I went into cardiac arrest due to chemotherapy.
Before this experience, everything had a place. I was a bit OCD, trying to bend and control life to my ways. I wasted years worried that I wasn’t good enough, thin enough, or smart enough. I searched in books, teachers, outside of self to help release the pain that I held inside. All of that was gone in an instant. As I woke up in the hospital, I woke up to life for the first time.
From that moment forward I began to live. I no longer saw the world in black-and-white—as one dimensional. I knew it was endless and limitless with no beginning and no end. I no longer felt fear of the unknown because we don’t ever really know anything.
I no longer sweat the small stuff. No more taking for granted the precious moments each day gives us, or trying to bend life to my will. Each day differently unfolds, beautiful and ugly. Often they can be thorny and bumpy; nevertheless, I am alive to experience them, knowing that it won’t last, everything shifts, begins, and ends.
Don’t wait to get sick and meet death. Begin living now. There are no guarantees except that you will end in the earth from where you came -what you do in between is up to you.