Dreams Being Delayed by CancerJanuary 7th, 2016
One of the most difficult challenges that cancer has caused me is it has repeatedly put my dreams on hold without leaving me much choice. I was 28 years old when I decided to change my career to Registered Nursing. It had been a long process, especially for me. My illness and treatments has me lagged behind two cohorts of former classmates in pursuing our dreams of becoming full fledged nurses no matter how hard and persistently I worked. These, I realized, are what have been the cause of my lowest days.
I was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in the summer of 2013 during my school break from nursing school at San Francisco State University. I had to take a year off to allow for several month-long inpatient chemotherapy treatments for a year. As soon as I was done with treatments and was considered on remission, I worked right away on going back to the university and picking up where I left off my studies to become a nurse.
The first semester I was back went really smoothly health-wise. The next, which was my last semester as well before graduating, had been shaky to say the least. Halfway through that final semester, I had my very first seizure while I was working in a hospital as part of my final training in nursing school. That's when the doctors found out that there were leukemia cells in my cerebrospinal fluid, even though I received many doses of prophylactic intrathecal chemotheraphy during my first year of treatments. I was then referred to another hospital for stem cell transplant, radiation, and more chemotherapy (both systemically and in the central nervous system). I had to work extra hard to finish my school requirements all the while I had to be in hospitals for more than a week or so, while experiencing side effects from the new intrathecal chemo I was receiving at the time, and to make time for several clinic appointments in preparation for my stem cell transplant. I also had to work with my new oncologist with scheduling so I could finally graduate from nursing school. Then in May, I finally graduated Magna Cum Laude! That was the highlight of my life in 2015.
Right after graduation, my classmates were rushing to take and pass the national nursing licensure exam, while I did not have any choice but to take it after my stem cell transplant. Most of them are full fledged nurses now working in hospitals while I am currently in a long recovery from the transplant. My oncologist advised me that the earliest I can take the licensure exam is in March of this year, and we haven't discussed yet when it would be safe for me to work as a nurse. These restrictions on my endeavors to finally have a rewarding professional career can oftentimes make me feel depressed. I also have a major dilemma of whether it would be best to leave off my long battle with cancer during my job interviews in the future as it would make me seem like a liability of an employee, while opening up about it could make seem more competent than my peers as my extensive experience as a cancer patient has truly taught me a lot of things about nursing. Things that my classmates and peers never had the chance to learn from nursing school alone. This experience has also made me more aware of patients' needs. I can speak through experience, not just from what I learned from books, what to expect during many different procedures and tests.
No matter how scary, painful, and challenging all my treatments and tests have been, nothing compares to the pain I feel about being left behind because of things I have no control over. I'm not the kind to usually resort to self-pity, but this illness and its treatments are strong enough that I feel an emotion that I've always avoided feeling: that life has been especially unfair to me. Has anyone else had the same experience and faced the same dilemma?