Dark clouds roll in on a warm sunny day. All life goes quiet. The light that once was is suffocated. The atmosphere changes into a heavy and cold one. A flash of light and loud cracks take the place of peace. One drop, a few, and then millions of heavy raindrops puncture the earth below. Soon an aggressive wind pulls in dark clouds. A siren screams on an old T.V. and everyone escapes to shelter. A summer evening like this one struck when I was a kid. Despite all this chaos, I still snuck away unnoticed. I found myself in an open field, stunned and terrified. All alone and yet very surrounded. This is one of the few ways I can almost describe what it felt like to be diagnosed with cancer. The mood changed in an instant. Snapping from a sunny, warm, and sweet day to a cold, heavy, and bitterly salty storm of one. Out of what seemed like nowhere this diagnosis showed its ugly self. At the time I was seventeen and healthy with no family history of cancer. yet there I stood. Once all the noise dissipated, I could see all the signs that were showing me what was to come. The day's I was excessively tired and countless nights I felt brittle and paper-thin. The abundance of missed school days due to being sick. Even a large lump showed up on my neck. It choked me and gave me multiple medical tests with the word “inconclusive”. Despite it all, I graduated and was excited to live. Independence and freedom were in my view and life felt like it was just beginning. This feeling didn't last long. One summer day I came home from work full of life, but something felt wrong. Like staring into dark woods and all the birds go quiet. Something is there and looming over you, but it's unclear what it is. My parents had a look on their faces I hope to never see again. My last test finally had results, even if no one wanted to hear them. I don't remember much after hearing “you have cancer” but I do remember the rain. I remember feeling like a scared kid stuck in a storm followed by a cold shock and loud thunderous anger. The first day of chemotherapy was surreal yet normal. Like a sci-fi indie film. A 5-hour drive to the hospital, blood tests, scans, injections, and then treatment. They sat me in a private room for my first treatment. There was a point I was left completely alone, just waiting. Waiting for that first sting. For that first chemical drip into my bloodstream. Not knowing what to expect, the silence of it all was suffocating. When I was freed from this silence, I was greeted with a large needle stuck into a heavy and hard plastic bump called a port placed under my skin and on my chest. One of the oddest things was the smell and the taste of chemo. As an injection, that's not what people expect. Yet it's a flavor I will never forget and never fully describe. Anything I had eaten before, during, or after became stained with a horrible, bitter taste with an unnatural, nauseating smell that still haunts me. Although these side effects were miserable they were not the worst of it. Nothing could compare to the pain engulfing my body. Bone-breaking, skin burning, stomach-wrenching sensations got worse with every injection. If you can imagine what it's like to rot and decay, that is how it felt to be alive. Living became a challenge and all the things people said to me became overwhelming. Judgment came from all corners. Harassed for being bald and everything else under the sun my mind began to melt. I became paranoid with the words being said and the chemicals in my body. I cut myself off from everything. I was furious at people, cancer, and life. Anger and determination motivated me. I decided to push. And push I did. I worked for as long as I could, looked into colleges, and even worked out. Making myself appear as fine as possible. I was running as fast as I could, but it was a race no one wins. I grew more and more fatigued and weaker by the day. Soon my immune system really started to fail. I had to slow down. I had to finally give myself a break. Let my body rest and breathe. In learning to be ok with rest, I also had to let myself feel miserable, but allow myself to stay there. Time crawled and yet flew by. My last day of treatment finally arrived. Relief swept over me releasing many tears. Months passed and my port was removed. A weight had been lifted and I could breathe again. Years have now passed. I am still recovering, mentally, and physically. I have come to accept that I may never get back to where I was. That's typical with any storm. Just like how the land is left with marks of cracked trees and muddy rivers, I now too have scars that decorate me. Some scars are on the surface and some are hidden below many layers. They show me. They show what I have lived through and symbolize the strength I have. The scars I show are like the flowers that grow in after a storm or the new tree that grows in place of the broken one. They show that even after the heaviest of storms we can always grow back.
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