"You have Acute Myeloid Leukemia."
When you are 20 years old, you don't think about yourself having cancer. You think about college, your future career, and friends. Cancer isn't the last thing on your mind – it's not on your mind at all. But on August 12th 2012 it became my main focus. At age 20 I was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, or AML. I had to put my whole life on hold in order to get better. I was not happy about this to say the least - I didn't want to be poked, given poison, and unable to go through with the plans I had for the new school year.
But I knew that it didn't matter what I wanted – this is what I was faced with. I had no choice. So, I decided I had to turn to optimism and positivity. My new mantra became "there is good in every day." I made it my mission to find two to three good things during every day. If I had never experienced cancer myself, I wouldn't have thought this would work. I would have thought that I would be down in the dumps all the time, despite my efforts. Don’t get me wrong, I was down at times - but I didn't let anything overpower the good that I found in each day.
My mantra seemed to work rather well for me from the start. I went into remission right after the first round of chemo, but my positive mindset was tested when I was told that I had a serious and deadly gene mutation in my leukemia. I had a FLT+3 gene mutation which would make my cancer keep coming back no matter the chemo. I had one choice and that choice was a bone marrow transplant. My doctors immediately went searching for a donor for me since my siblings weren't a match. I feel lucky that I had a willing donor and wasn't on the waiting list for months, as many others are.
Once again, I put a smile on in preparation for this new battle. I went through harsh chemo and total body irradiation to prepare my body for those new cells. On November 8th, 2012 I received the new cells and the battle was in full swing. The month I spent in the hospital as my body took to the cells was not pleasant at all, but I still made it my goal to find one good thing about the day if I had the energy. Mouth sores, vomiting, fatigue, extreme nose bleeds, spending Thanksgiving in the hospital, and general pain were tough, but three things got me through it:
My family and friends
- My nurses
- My positive attitude
I continued to use "there is good in every day" throughout my recovery and I still use it to this day. Cancer is not only a battle of the body, but also of the mind. There is a need to take care of both as much as possible. Being positive was my way of taking care of my mental state while fighting – it was my "survival mode."
Cancer was hell for me and I prefer to never do it again, but my mantra helped me learn a lot of lessons, viewpoints, and even a new career path. Now I know that cancer can be positive, if you just stare it in the face and look at it the right way.
How did you find ways to say positive throughout your cancer treatment? Share your advice in the comments below.