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Facing My Own Mortality After Being Diagnosed With Leukemia at 24

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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.

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Getty Images photo via fcscafeine

Originally published: January 9, 2018
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