A year ago today, I woke up like it was any other day. Got dressed for work and headed to Framingham. That would be the last time I go to work for 11 months. Later that day, while sitting in a team meeting, I would begin to get shooting pains down my back and legs so bad that I could barely stay in my seat. I hurried back to my desk to try to walk it out but nothing worked. Within a few minutes, I found myself in a maternity room downstairs rolling around in pain on the floor and calling my mom hysterically crying. At that point, I would call my friend Amanda and ask her to drive me to the hospital. It was an abnormally beautiful February day (nothing like today) and we were able to put the windows down. I remember laughing and making jokes through the pain and putting my face towards the sun and really feeling it on my face, feeling the wind go through my hair. Although I had no clue what was about to happen, I remember the car ride so vividly and feeling a sense of surrealness while making our way to the hospital. We waited there for quite sometime and then my dad came through the door. We finally got taken into a room where I was told, for the what seemed like 100th time, that I just had back pain, most likely sciatica nerve pain. I was then brought into a room where I was able to start listing off the additional ailments that had been going on; nose bleeds, bruises, blood blisters, headaches. Quickly that got the attention of the doctor and they immediately wanted to take bloodwork. At that point, Mike had showed up. A few minutes later, my mom showed up and we both instantly started crying when she gave me a hug. It was like we knew, something was about to go wrong. Maybe our lives were about to be turned upside down. And then it was. A doctor walked in the room and precisely asked my family members to leave. I knew that wasn’t a good sign. She then sat down next to me and took my hand as she said the words that the blood work had come back and it appeared that I had leukemia. I was stunned. I didn’t cry, I didn’t hyperventilate. I was still…numb. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, I couldn’t believe the words she had just said. And what I couldn’t do is tell my family. So that’s when I asked her to please call my family back in and be the ones to tell them. I’ll never forget the look on Mike’s face when she said the words that I had leukemia. It was the worst thing I had ever seen, and I think the worst thing I’ll ever see. It was a face of sadness, panic, pure worry. It was like looking in a mirror of what I was feeling. Then it all became a whirlwind. We had to pick a hospital to go to and my mom and I got in the back of an ambulance and I was rushed over to the Brigham. At that point, I had no idea that I wouldn’t feel fresh air for almost a month. I also had no idea that I was about to meet some of the most genuine, caring and wonderful individuals I would ever have the pleasure of knowing. One waiting for me in the emergency room. My very own angel, Dr. Mandy. She stood there as I got wheeled in and immediately took my hand and looked into my eyes. She could tell how scared I was, how overwhelmed myself and my whole family was. And she reassured us that everything would be okay. She held my hand the whole time she talked and told me that she was going to cure me, she was going to make me better. And although I had only known her for a few short minutes, I believed everything she said. I instantly trusted her with my life. I would then get taken up to a holding area for the night, that had a lovely metal toilet right next to my bed. That would be the first night that Mike would stay with me, he didn’t leave my side for the next 27 days. He would barely sleep that night. With plenty of drugs, I would sleep on and off the rest of the night and wake up the next morning to get hours and hours of tests done to see exactly what strand of leukemia I had. It’d be a painful, long day but a day that would end up telling me that, Dr. Mandy was right– everything was going to be okay.
That was all a year ago today. Last year when it was all happening, I knew what was going on, but I was in crisis mode, a shell of a person, just trying to do whatever I could to get myself better. I was surrounded by family, friends, nurses and doctors at all times so there wasn’t that much time to reflect. A year later, and I feel like it’s important for me to remember exactly what last year on this day entailed. It almost doesn’t feel real that an entire year has passed. It was by far the hardest year of my life, most trying and difficult time I’ve ever experienced. But I also learned so much about life, about the wonderful people in mine and the things that are truly important. Things I never would’ve realized without this journey; it’s a journey I never would have asked for but as I march through it, I realize that I’m so blessed. I’m still here a year later, I’m about to turn 26 and all my labs look great. What more could I ask for? Absolutely nothing. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that health is everything. Today is a sad day as I reflect on how my life changed so drastically but it also is a good day, I’m so much healthier than I was a year ago today. I’ve made it so far in a year and I have so much to be thankful for.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those who have reached out with kind words, prayed for me, sent me positive vibes, cards, care packages, and simply shown me love in the past year. I cannot tell you how much it has all meant to me and what a difference it truly made. I love you all.