Cancer Changed the Direction of My Life

Cancer Changed the Direction of My Life

I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, I’ve always been blatantly envious of people who do. I came from a family of nomadic artists, so I had a feeling I’d never be certain about my career. How could I know exactly what I wanted to do when there were so many possibilities?

I traveled a lot at an early age. I painted murals, worked as a waitress at a cocktail bar, lived as an au pair, and managed a surf hostel. After two years of travel and work, I settled down at university to study books and writing. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I hoped that my studies would lead me toward my destined career.

Then I was diagnosed with cancer. I managed to complete my degree while undergoing chemotherapy, but the experience left me more confused than ever. I had a degree, sure, but I also felt exhausted and stripped of my identity. I decided to fly halfway across the world to the middle of nowhere (as one does), all in the hopes of getting some direction.

My expedition for self-determination led me to the Amazon jungle where I volunteered at a nongovernmental organization for two months. I was doing something selfless for the first time in my life. I was part of something bigger than myself, helping people every day, experiencing life in its purest form. I slowly made progress toward psychological recovery.

After two months, I moved to Ecuador to work as a full-time teacher in a private school. One year later, I felt healthy enough to return to a faster pace of life. I soon found myself in the heart of London where I began a master’s in journalism. I was confident that graduate school would help me discover what I wanted to do with my life.

One month later, I was in the hospital, being treated once again for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Life hadn’t gone according to plan, but by this point, I’d realized that life rarely does. I completed my master’s while going through chemotherapy and handed in my thesis a week before my stem cell transplant.

It’s been about a month and a half since I finished my degree and a month since my transplant. I bet you can guess how I’m feeling right now — totally lost. Every time I feel like I’m on track to figuring it all out, cancer comes along and upends my world. My classmates are starting careers, and I’m over here with my bald head and brand new immune system, trying to figure out what I’m meant to do with my life yet again.

Cancer has the powerful ability to make a person reconsider everything they once believed. It’s hard to go back to how things used to be, but to be honest, I prefer who I am post-cancer. Sure, I have enough trauma to last a lifetime, but I’ve also learned things that a lot of people don’t until they’re older, if at all.

I feel like I need to do something meaningful with my life. I’ve read that people with cancer often find themselves changing careers post-treatment. I suppose that, at the end of the day, when you’ve come to face-to-face with your own mortality, and once you understand the value of life, it’s hard to go back to a job that has no heart. I have to figure out how to channel my love of writing and the skills I’ve learned into something that’s going to help people.

I don’t have the answers, but I’m confident it will work out. As much as things in my life have a tendency to fall apart, they also have a beautiful tendency of falling into place.


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.

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One comment

  1. Cindy Duesberg says:

    Thank you again for providing an authentic voice to the struggles and unexpected ‘gifts’ the cancer brings.

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