Cancer survivor | Day 138 of my 2023 Journal
Twelve years ago, around this time, I felt like sh*t. I could not get out of bed in the morning. I kept catching viruses. I had no energy. I was reading books on the immune system, tried to be slow and mindful, and kept visiting the doctor. My four children were small, one still a toddler. Maybe it was natural to be so immensely tired?
A month later, on the 18th of June, I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.
I remember the day clearly. My father drove me to the central hospital of Copenhagen, Riget, as my husband was taking the kids to kindergarten. I was impossible to park, literally impossible, and to his frustration, my dad had to just drop me off by the main entrance.
I could hardly walk.
I did not yet know what it was, but I knew deep in my cells it was serious.
My doctor had called me and left a voice message; I had to report to the hospital the next morning. They were expecting me. So I did. Walked in through the circular door. Walked up to the information, gave them my social security number. Told them I could not walk any longer. I was in pain, tired, and had a fever. It was all blurry. I was helped to a bench and sat down.
Nurse Gemma (bless her) arrived with a bed for me. The main information and main entrance hardly ever see beds. This was serious. They did not expect me to walk even one step more, not even to sit in a wheelchair. Right there by the main entrance, I was put to bed and pushed into the elevator, lifting me to the cancer clinic on the fifth floor.
And so, the roller coaster started.
I was diagnosed. We all panicked. The doctor told me in the first sentence they could cure it, and I said I did not want statistics.
I would go straight for that narrow option, however narrow it was, but I needed not to know the numbers. I signed the papers of consent to blood transfusions and had the first of more than 300 right there and then. I signed the documents for the chemo and swallowed the first pills, so soft and easy chemo - not knowing what would come once I had the port installed directly in my central vein. Three days later, chemo was pumped in 2 cm from my heart, so toxic we needed the heart to spread it immediately. I vomited a lot.
My best friend cut off my hair. My children came to visit. Everyone came to visit. I had IV antibiotics. I had opiates to kill the pain. I was drugged out of my mind, I think. But eventually, back into life.
When the hospital priest arrived, my close friend, who is also a priest, came simultaneously. It was beautiful. I had a lot of hope. They told me you can not prepare for death. You have to keep living for as long as you are alive. They prayed with me. My friend kept coming over the next six months, several times a week, to bless me, and for every single blood transfusion I had, I asked God for it to be the blood of Jesus Christ, the blood of all of us, the blood of life.
It was extreme times.
My hair eventually fell off. Then my eyebrows and -lashes. I could not help my children much. Nor my husband.
Somehow I passed through the narrow path and survived. Somehow it all went well. Somehow we all got through it. Six months of chemo, fear, sickness, vomiting, hope, day after day, deciding to survive, to fight for it, to keep going. For my children. For the sunshine. Because I knew I had to. After that, five years of waiting, hoping, blood tests, panic whenever I had the flu, more blood tests, and relief.
I am sharing this story today because it all was evoked and came back like a flood, overwhelming and grotesque, when I had to enter the same hospital to visit my birthing cousin. I think most cancer survivors can recognize this. It will never go away. Certain places, certain smells, and some sounds open an inner door, and it all comes back overwhelmingly and huge. I still have to fight to eat and drink inside the hospital. I still fear the elevator.
I am still grateful. For every drop of blood. For all of the antibiotics. For every second the nurses spent with me. For the friendly and excellent doctors. For chemotherapy, sterile plastic, daily blood tests, transfusions of not just hemoglobin but even more for the many bags of platelets, without which I would also have died, for everyone who donated blood, for the flowers sent, the many people who helped drive me home to my children whenever it was possible, for meditation that kept me sane(-ish), for saying no to hormone therapy (my only no in the whole process) keeping me strong and feminine and fertile, so I could bounce back and have another child just one year after treatment.
Most of all just grateful, in awe, to just be here. In this life. Where every moment is a blessing.
Love and light
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