This Short, Painful, but Magical Life

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As I woke the morning of the 7th, I prepared to embark on my new routine; a routine I never thought I’d have to adopt, let alone get used to. While I felt calm and relaxed – tranquil, even – the profound realization that my fears were hiding in the shadows waiting to pounce was all too apparent. Am I sitting on a pink cloud of sorts, naively waiting for reality to knock me off? However, this “Cold War” standoff between hope and fear had to wait. It was time to focus on my second round of treatment.

Instead of the usual crew accompanying me to the hospital, this time my mother and I decided to go by ourselves. It was an oddly perfect bonding experience, and having her and my nurse John right there kept my mind at ease. For those who aren’t aware, every time you go in for treatment the doctors run blood work panels. They religiously monitor white blood cell counts, in addition to other markers that indicate how well the chemotherapy is working. To be completely honest, I am terrified by needles. Unless it’s on the end of a tattoo gun, I typically run in the opposite direction of any needle headed my way! I can still remember crying and shaking from anxiety as a young girl when the doctor mentioned they’d have to draw blood. Yet, on this particular morning, I already had my sleeves pulled up with a “which arm would you like?” look on my face.

While ostensibly small, this experience amongst many others shed light on how much I’ve had to grow up recently. The trivial worries I’ve encountered in the past now seem petty and insignificant. In the big picture, who really cares about a little needle? I find it ironic how quickly perspectives in life can be so fundamentally altered. In times like these, you start to realize just how wise your parents were while raising you. Those things you once resented because they seemed silly at the time now make perfect sense. You see, it’s not only intellect driving decision-making, but also experience. I can’t help but wonder how much this process will change me and define the person I’m going to become.

Today, I feel lucky – lucky that the side effects of treatment haven’t gotten much worse, and lucky that I have such a great support system around me. The body aches and loss of appetite are slightly more pronounced, but it’s nothing I can’t deal with. The only new symptom that’s reared its head is an aching in my mouth. Like any good “Millennial,” I Googled it the moment the pain set in and found that it’s completely normal. Whew! I’m even feeling well enough that I was able to get back to the gym. Although my life’s goal flashed before my eyes no more than a month ago, fighting cancer has only strengthened my desire to become a professional bodybuilder.

When you face your mortality head-on, you realize that life is simply too short to not give it everything you’ve got; to not experience every moment to the fullest. I’m now 25% through my chemotherapy treatment, with two rounds down and six more to go. I had to adjust my expectations early on in this process, and I’ve accepted that they’ll likely need another readjustment as time goes on. However, I can confidently say I’m on the path to survival. I’ll survive the treatment, I’ll survive this disease, and then I’ll thrive in this life I’ve been so graciously given a second chance at. It may be short and incredibly painful at times, but for the first time I can see how truly magical it is. I’m just taking it one day at a time.

You can read more from Maressa at livingwellwithmontel.com.