Every fall, when autumn leaves offer warm shades of gold, red and orange, nostalgia drapes over me.
The fall breeze carries memories from shared moments with friends decades ago, as though they happened yesterday. It is with happiness in my heart, not sadness, that I reminisce and feel gratitude that we got to share that moment in time, those days, those belly laughs.
Today has been one of those perfect fall days. Even better it follows a day of wonderful news: yesterday I found out that I am officially in remission from leukemia.
My good news has sunk in slowly and maybe that is the reason that today has felt so completely fabulous, filled with gratitude for all the love that is in my life, and ever has been in my life.
Ironically, the official news of remission has been sitting on my office desk in front of my face for a week. It came in an envelope from the oncologist. The return address on the envelope was, of course, from the hospital. Being that I had a leukemia relapse last year, we get hospital bills by the dozens these days and I just did not feel like opening this one. We typically look over bills during the weekend so I allowed this one to sit on my desk all week.
Yesterday morning I was sipping on some coffee and decided to bite the bullet and open the bill. Instead of a bill, my labs from the oncologist came out with the words “not detected” and the oncologist had drawn a smiley face beside the absence of the leukemia marker 🙂
I stared at the page and tried to make sense of it all:
- I put my coffee down
- I re-checked the envelope for a bill
- No there was no bill, this was merely a lab
- I re-read the lab: It was only the report of the Absense of the leukemia marker
- The report did read “not detected”
- My oncologist did draw a smiley face
- I smiled and sat alone in my office and thought about how last year when I got the page that said “detected” it was written in all bold, all capital letters and this time, the letters were not bold, nor capital—-> and I thought that it is a shame because this news is every bit as important
- Then I went back to work
Seriously, a bit underwhelming after such a cruel and challenging year of relapse. I think I was just in shock. I felt very happy but I did not call my husband, I did not contact my family, I did not text anyone, I did not post the news. I just sat in silence with my happiness. I never sit with silence (anyone who knows me, or reads this blog, knows that).
But maybe that is where life’s big moments make us act unlike ourselves? Because yesterday’s news, and that moment, was tremendous for me.
I actually did not even mention my remission news to my husband last night when I saw him. The celebration started when I was responding to a friend on an email. She asked how I am doing and I told her, simple as that, it became real. And then I ended the email and I told my husband and he was so happy 🙂
And then this morning I sent a big text to my family and everyone is so happy ❤
And now I am writing the blog post that we all prayed for last year.
And it has almost been a full year.
Last year was unexpected and cruel. At the same time, it was not as cruel as it could have been and I thank God for that. I don’t understand why “bad things happen to good people” and there is that part of me that is now working through survivor’s guilt because there are so many people going through horrific situations right this second.
Last year wrecked me. My 30’s had been a long decade of illness and hospitalizations. My 40’s are new and I did not anticipate a relapse of leukemia at 42. It was not supposed to happen again in my 40’s.
Last year was the 3rd time in the past 14 years that my health has completely crumbled despite my attempts to stay well. And that is a horrible feeling. There is nothing like it, there is no way to describe how it feels to have every “normal” part of life swiped away and it can happen so fast.
When I had leukemia the first time back in 2007, I remember telling my dad “everybody says that thing about how they could walk outside and be hit by a car tomorrow, but they don’t understand what feels like to be so sick that they might actually die”. And I stand by that statement because even now, after being severely ill 3 times in my life, I am starting to forget how fragile all of it felt.
I do know that when I was sick, most of the things that seem important did not matter at all. The things that mattered: Unconditional Love, the ability to be non-judgmental, the ability to be supportive without judgment, the ability to show up, the ability to believe in someone even at their breaking point, the reality that silence hurts more deeply than you can imagine.
I am fiercely proud of the man I married. When we got married 6 years ago, he knew that he was marrying a woman with a history of leukemia and he knew that there was a chance it could relapse. But there is no understanding “potential for relapse” until you are in the middle of it. He loved me through every second and it was ugly, scary, sad, gross. In the movies the producers romanticize illness with music to soften the gross scenes and they show the passage of time in short clips so it is fast; but in real life, there is no romantic music in the background and if anything, the gross moments are so cold and painful that they seem eternal and isolating.
I love him ❤
I am humbled by the amount of unconditional love and support of my parents give to me and to my husband. I am grateful that God directed our steps to buy a cozy house that is literally around the corner from them a few months before my relapse. My heart is full of love exponential when I think of the meals they brought to us and the prayers they prayed; and for the moments that they showed up here, at our house with strength when they were probably crumbling inside, but they knew I needed to see strength in them. And my heart breaks with love when I think of the many times that they have pleaded with God for their daughter’s life.
My heart absolutely overflows with love and devotion for my sister and her doe-like eyes. She has always been the one who can sit in silence and listen. I have still-framed memories of us together over the past 14 years during my health battles. Once again, she showed up to listen again with compassion. I also cherish the memory of holding one another’s hands when the nurse drew her blood to find out if she is a match for me should I need a bone marrow transplant (I pray I never do). She is the person I can laugh and cry with, all in one session, the one who totally understands me and loves me. She is my best friend ❤
I am grateful for my brother-in-law, and with that I pause because he lost his sister to cancer and I often feel a sense of survivor’s guilt that she is not still with us. And I recognized that he has had to work through incredible pain at the loss of her; I am amazed that he has never allowed feelings of jealousy or resentment to accidentally be directed toward me because I think that it would be easy to do that. Instead, he has always reached out in love and joined my sister in supporting me. He is the brother I did not have as a child.
My heart is filled with love and affection (like a huge heart emoji) for my niece and nephew. They both know that they play a tremendous role in my life. They have had to worry about health crises with people they love entirely too much during their youth. It means so much to me that they know how to show up, hold my hand and give me warm hugs. They know how to pray for me and how to love me and how to trust that I will heal. They know that the very best medicine is to make their Aunt laugh, and they do that ❤
I am filled with love and gratitude for the way that my aunt, uncle, cousins and grandmother stayed in the fight for me with their prayers, text messages and emails. They have loved me unconditionally through the tough moments, and brought us the gift of laughter and resilience.
I am grateful for the special things that the family I married into did to show support and love for me.
I am grateful for friendships that were rekindled after decades and for new friendships that were formed over the past year.
Thank you so much to every single person who read my story, who prayed for me, who thought of me, who reached out to me. I pray that God pours special blessings out to you for what you did to me.
I once wrote a blog post about the word redemption and how illness has given me a new appreciation for the word because God has repeatedly redeemed what seemed like my world falling apart for something more beautiful.
I like to end my blog posts with songs and I think that the song My Redeemer Lives is appropriate for this post. I am so happy to be in remission.
To New Beginnings ❤