After treatment, this survivor was terrified of everyone and everything until her very wise doctor said, “I did not put you through all this for you to put yourself in a bubble – go live your life.” And she has… for 16 years and counting.
March 31, 2003 is a day I will NEVER, EVER forget! I stood outside smoking cigarette after cigarette, possibly because I knew that would most likely be the last cigarette (if I had a brain in my head) that I would ever smoke. About 30 minutes later I dragged myself and my suitcase into New York Presbyterian Hospital to begin Induction – what was to be a 30-day stay that was the start of my treatment for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
I “checked in” and began to decorate my room – if I had to be there for a month I was going to at least try to make it comfortable. Pillow, PJs (really sweatpants but let me advise you that they are SOOO much better than those gowns!) my own soap, moisturizer, toothpaste – anything that reminded me of home.
And then the games began…endless processions of doctors and nurses getting me “prepped”: Blood pressure, oxygen, temperature, weight (ugh). Then I took a deep breath as the first drip started. The games were over and I was TERRIFIED! Every time something else went into me – and it was a lot – or I had to swallow another pill I asked, “What is that?”, “What is this for?” and “What am I going to feel?”. And that was just the first day …only 29 more to go.
I got through the first day of endless drips and pills and pokes and … I was OK. I found my own magical thinking … like on Monday when I got this drip, I didn’t wash my face and I didn’t feel sick so when I get that drip again I made a mental note: “Don’t wash face!” OK, but what I mean is you find little things that help you get through it and you get through it. I asked my doctor if I was crazy and she said, “If that got you through this as well as you got through it then I want to be crazy like you.”
And I got through the next 17 days until my doctor came in and said, “I need this bed for someone sick – you’re going home tomorrow.” OK— I’m an overachiever.
Then the REALLY scary part came. All of a sudden, I’m sent out “THERE” into the world with people and germs everywhere. I had just spent three weeks getting my immune system totally knocked out of me and then they send me home with a bunch of antibiotics, anti-virals, anti-world pills and a mask. Terrified of everyone and everything. I went through these hospital stays for a week every month for the next eight months. Each time it was the same routine… pills, mask, home. And I was scared. My very wise doctor said, “I did not put you through all this for you to put yourself in a bubble – go live your life.” And I have… for 16 years and counting.
So for all of you starting this journey or finishing it, do what makes you comfortable, find your magical thoughts and LIVE!