Facing My Own Mortality After Being Diagnosed With Leukemia at 24

I have been thinking a lot since seeing Holly Butcher’s beautiful words go viral. It’s hard to even begin to understand facing your own mortality at a young age unless you’ve experienced it. And to be clear, even though I have faced mine, it was not in the same way as Holly.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t think about my own mortality too much when I was going through treatment for cancer. I was 24 and my disease had a disturbingly high relapse rate and very low survival rate. The reason I didn’t think about it much was not because I was this positive ray of sunshine convinced I was going to survive.  It was just that I didn’t think about much at all. My mind was blank most of the time. I thought about getting by one day at a time…. whatever test or procedure I had to deal with that day. I simply couldn’t get by thinking any further ahead.

It was too overwhelming.

I think it finally hit me when my first friend around my age with my disease relapsed and passed away. It made it all too real. I also remember the first time I saw them take away a body at the hospital. I have forgotten a lot that happened that year, but that is one memory I will never shake. They encourage you to walk around the hall, but they forget to make sure you aren’t walking then.

I guess in some ways, I thought about my mortality more than I realized. I remember feeling guilty about my parents or anyone spending money on me because I may not get to use or enjoy whatever it was they were buying. I didn’t let myself plan for the future. I wouldn’t actually admit there may not
be one, but I didn’t let myself think about it.

I guess reading this makes me realize I did grapple with my own mortality in different ways. Another example of how everyone copes differently.

I think about my own mortality a lot now. I survived, but if I were to relapse, the chances of surviving would go down even more. That’s why the fear of relapse is extra scary. That’s a lot to stomach and something I try not to think about when I am traveling the world, searching for the perfect job or crossing items off my bucket list. These are things people still judge me for spending money on when I have so many other expenses, but they are lucky and haven’t had to face their own mortality.

Life is short, no matter which way you look at it.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Getty Images photo via fcscafeine

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Leukemia

Woman's hand writing on a notepad with a pen on a wooden desk.

Using the 55 Fiction Method to Heal After My Leukemia Diagnosis

I’ve been struggling to figure out how to start talking about my leukemia diagnosis and the experiences that followed thereafter. I spent over two hours between yesterday and today digging out and re-reading old emails I sent to friends as updates, as well as emails I received during the time when I was acutely ill. [...]

Why I'm Creating Products for People With Cancer and Other Illnesses

My life changed a few years ago when I was told, “Nikhil, the good news is you’re 17 and you have leukemia, but the bad news is you’re 17… and you have leukemia.” Then I asked him the one question every cancer patient dreads: “What are my chances?” He looked at me, sighed and said, [...]

If You Hate That You Had Cancer, You're Not Ungrateful. You're Also Not Alone.

We seem to always focus on the negative. Amidst all the tragedy of things going on in the world and all the ways in which things seems to be getting worse, unbeknownst to most, because of our natural inclination to see the rapid degradations as opposed to the gradual improvements that are made everyday, the [...]
mother with her children at the seaside at sunset

The Reality of Hearing Your Child Say 'Mommy, Is My Brother a Ghost?'

Kids sure say the darndest things, especially little ones finding their way through the windy road of grief and bereavement. Lily, our youngest daughter, is filled to the brim with “darndest things” and countless amounts of questions about the death of her brother and best friend, Matthew. Recently, after a nightmare, Lily was convinced Matthew [...]