Open letter to self
It’s been awhile since I provided a general update on my health. Many of you have inquired as to how I am feeling. The answer is, “great!” On July 15, I celebrated my 2 year “re”birthday! This was a day my doctors were not sure I would live long enough to see. Thankfully, I serve a God who is able to work miracles.
During my 2-year checkup, my doctors were impressed with how I’ve progressed. Neuropathy (damaged nerves due to strong chemotherapy/radiation treatment) that once wreaked havoc on my feet and prevented me from being able to walk for even short periods of time, has gradually withdrawn. I now only have it in my toes and I no longer have to take medication for the symptoms. My blood counts are great and there is still no sign of leukemia in my system. My liver and kidneys continue to function at normal levels with no issues. My lung capacity has improved. My digestive system has improved 100% and I no longer have to take digestive aids. (This is mainly due to an overhaul in my diet that I’ll share in a later post.) The only thing they are monitoring at this point is a small bit of graft versus host disease (GVHD) that has manifested as eczema on my skin (mainly my arms). It looks like patches the size of a quarter that are red and bumpy. Other than a terrible itch and rash-like consistency, they really don’t bother me. Also, I’ve been told that a little bit of GVHD is a good thing. I had to get all of my vaccinations again and I’m feeling like a true toddler. I can’t get any live vaccines until a bit later, but I’m well on my way! These last two years certainly haven’t been easy, but I’m so grateful to still be alive!
The other day someone asked me if there was something I would tell my former self, what would it be? I thought about it for awhile. I’ve learned so many lessons along the way and I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people throughout this journey. After pondering the question for awhile, I decided to sit down and write a letter to myself. If I were to go back to the beginning, this is what I wish I had known:
Welcome to one of life’s most challenging journeys. It will be extremely tough. You will be faced with every challenge imaginable – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Things you never struggled with before will come at you like curveballs. Keep track of your small victories. You will need that momentum and energy as you progress from level to level. You will cry A LOT and you may not feel very strong sometimes. But remember, God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. Your faith, friends and family will be the fuel you’ll need to survive this thing. Don’t get disappointed with a bad doctor’s report or low blood count numbers. You will have good days and bad days. Focus on your healing and not the sickness. Surround yourself with positive people and affirmations. The most important thing to remember is NEVER GIVE UP! It doesn’t matter how bad it looks or how tired of fighting you are. Don’t quit 5 minutes before your miracle is about to happen. Don’t get tricked into thinking it’s over for you. You have so much to live for if you will only keep fighting. God may not do things how you expect them to be done, but that doesn’t mean He’s not working. This journey won’t be short. I can’t tell you how long it will last, but remember waiting time is not wasted time. The race is not given to the swift nor to the strong, but to the one who endures. People’s lives will be changed because of your testimony. God’s going to get the glory out of this. It may not seem like it now, but it will all be worth it in the end. You can do this. God’s got you. Just hold on.
There are defining moments in life where there is a distinct before and after. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia was that defining moment for me. It’s hard to remember what my life was like before. For so many months I just wished for my old life back. Coming to the realization that my life would never be the same ushered me into accepting my life as Melanie 2.0. Although it’s much different than it was before, in so many ways it is much better. I can’t emphasize how grateful I am to still be alive to experience it. Accepting life as it is only happened after I surrendered. In order to move towards a better and brighter future, you have to let go of the past and be willing to step out into uncertainty. Sometimes that means going deeper out into the water. Other times that means doing something completely out of your comfort zone or experiencing something that doesn’t make logical sense. No matter what your defining moment is, let it change you for the better. My test has truly become my testimony. My mess has helped shape my mission. Cheers to the terrific two’s. I can’t wait to see what’s next.
P.S. This post is dedicated to my dear friend Tahaira who is fighting brain cancer. #tahairatough Check out her blog by clicking HERE.