As a young adult cancer survivor, I will never stop worrying about dying before I've lived long enough to leave my mark, to positively affect the world, and do whatever other things my mother would no doubt disapprove of.
From the get go, I've been treated at a pediatric hospital, on pediatric protocols, and may, by age, be considered pediatric -- but I am far from it. For once, I was in a room with survivors that got me.
"Survivor" by definition is a person remaining alive after an event in which others have died. So clearly I am a survivor, considering that after receiving chemotherapy and radiation I am still here. But why do I feel guilty?
My cancer can't get enough of me. It keeps coming back. And so I've decided to accept my illness in order to move on with my life. The problem is, once you make the decision to become 'frenemies' with your illness, you accept being defined by it, and cancer has a nasty reputation.
A golden rule that we learned in kindergarten is still a golden rule: Honesty is the best policy. Both of my boys, ages 6 and 4, know that I had cancer, and they know that I have to get checked every year to make sure that it doesn't come back.
Challenged by the river, I learned that the trick to kayaking is the same trick I used to navigate my illness -- you flow. Fighting against the current lands you upside-down, underwater, with your head bouncing against rocks.
There's no manual for dating with chronic illness -- there's no easy way to integrate your sick universe with the healthy without causing friction. You will feel the friction. You will be angry. But bravery is forging ahead anyway.
Many times I've been asked why or how I developed acute promyelocytic leukemia at the age of 31 and almost five months pregnant. Healthy, thriving young adults aren't supposed to get cancer. The natural question is: Why? The question and the answer are loaded with emotions.
Caring for a person with cancer can be extremely rewarding, but it can be exhausting as well. A diagnosis of cancer during adolescence and young adulthood interrupts a person's life and comes at a time when they are trying to complete the life steps that are necessary for transition into adulthood.