Cancer was not the first adversity I had to stop school for.
As I mentioned in my intro column, my stepfather passed away right before my junior year of college. I moved home for a semester to be with my mom during this time of grieving.
At the time, I was at an amazing four-year school, Florida Gulf Coast University. I was majoring in special education and dreamed of opening an alternative school for children with and without special needs.
After moving home to be with my mom, I decided that I didn’t want to go back to FGCU, however. In the past year, I had fallen in love with Los Angeles. I decided to apply to a school in Los Angeles. On Halloween of 2014, I found out I was accepted at a small private university for the spring term of 2015.
On Jan. 2 of 2015, my two older brothers and I began our trek to Los Angeles in what we like to call The Positive-Thinking Prius. We had a whole schedule of stops, and places we wanted to see.
We stayed at hostels along the way and shared some memorable times together. My mom surprised me by coming on the first leg of the journey with us.
Excited to begin my life in LA, I jumped head-first into school. I was getting good grades and making forever friends, one of whom will be my maid of honor when I marry.
As the spring semester began coming to a close, I found myself feeling like hell, however. I’ll never forget the end of my Current Topics in Bio Technology class. My professor told us: “We’re all gonna get cancer.” Ironically enough, I was diagnosed in the next few weeks.
Because my family lives in Florida, they insisted I leave LA for treatment — only five months after I arrived. I was determined to make it back to LA as soon as possible. I even suggested that I see how I handled chemo and, if I were doing OK, returning to LA in mid-treatment to continue school and resume kickball. (Yup, kickball was a priority then.)
Spoiler alert: I didn’t get back to LA in mid-treatment. I completed my entire treatment plan in Florida — one that included dealing with some complications. I know now that this turned out to be the best option for me.
Although the treatment set my education plan back a year, and watching some of my friends graduate from college sucked, I was healing. My body needed this time to recover, and if that meant recovering in the comfort of my family’s presence, that’s what I needed to do. I know everyone in Florida had my best interest at heart.
It didn’t take long for me to decide that I no longer wanted to pursue special education. Early in my treatment plan I decided to become a motivational speaker and patient advocate. I found such a joy in using social media to help other young adults who were going through what I was. Or going through any adversity really. I decided to change my major. Shocker — I hear that’s common when people get cancer.
I applied to schools during mid-treatment so that when I returned to LA, I’d be ready to start classes. Unfortunately, to get into a psychology program at a four-year school, you need to have been on a psychology track, or have an associate’s degree in psychology. I didn’t have either. All I had taken were sociology and education classes. The schools I applied to didn’t accept me. I decided to head back to LA, get some work and stability under my belt, and earn my two-year degree in psychology when I was ready.
It’s now February of 2017. I was diagnosed with cancer in May 2015 and was supposed to graduate in May of 2016. But I’m back in school completing my associate’s degree in psychology, and I should be done after this semester.
I recently posted a picture on Instagram of me in my dream wedding dress. I couldn’t wait to try it on because I was sure it was the one. My heart was set on it. But it didn’t feel right. My boobs were falling out of it, and it didn’t fit me properly in all the crevices. I wasn’t just picking a dress for me — I was doing it for others, too. I let myself be upset about it for about a minute, then took it off, and tried the next dress on — and it happened to be THE ONE.
The reason I’m telling you about my dress fiasco is to remind you that, although things don’t go as planned the first time around, there will always be a perfect dress around the corner. It may take more time to find it, and you may have to make some leaps of faith, but the perfect dress will come. Your treatment will end. But your journey will continue.
Note: Lymphoma News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lymphoma News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.