By the time this column is published, the one-year anniversary of my lifesaving stem cell transplant will have come and gone. But as I sit here sweating away in the thick humidity of a rare August heat wave, and as the sun sets upon my little garden in the boroughs of North London, I can’t help but bask in this moment of reflection and humble appreciation.
An entire year has come and gone, just like that. Time is such a strange, bizarre phenomenon. It feels as if it has passed by in a blur — a simple snap of my fingers — and yet so much has transpired. So much has unfurled and unfolded, fallen apart and come together, all in just 12 tiny months.
One year ago today, I was lying in a sterile hospital bed with a drip attached to my veins. I was puffy, exhausted, and frail from the chemicals seeping into my blood. I had no immune system and was days away from having my sister’s stem cells infused into my bloodstream, where they would collectively begin to regenerate an entirely new immune system.
A year ago, I could barely walk because I was so weak. I had no connection to my body other than distrust. I was small, sad, tired, and full of grief and heartache. A year ago, the world was painfully heavy and dark. Now, as I sit here staring at the trees in my backyard and watching the sun pour through the gaps in the branches, painting the leaves a brilliant verdant green, I see so much light in the world it’s almost blinding.
I just returned from a weekend in the English countryside with some of my best friends. We stayed in a house beside the sea on the coast of Cornwall. The sun was warm, and the world felt like it was washed in a soft, tangerine glow. I can’t remember the last time I have laughed so much. I felt wonderfully alive, radiating with joy at the sheer beauty of all the small, simple things. The tiny white and yellow daisies we picked from the bushes on the side of the road, the perfect flapping of a butterfly’s delicate wings, the sound of my friends’ laughter, the lightness of being, the magnificence of loving, and being loved in return.
This anniversary is deeply significant to me because it symbolizes just how far I have come. If only a year ago, lying in that hospital bed, I’d had a crystal ball and could have seen into the future and understood that everything really would be OK. If only I could have seen my strong, able body, my mop of unruly blond curls, my happy, overflowing heart. Back then, it felt like my life was falling apart. Now, despite all the unexpected twists and turns and challenges of this tumultuous year, the disparity between where I was then and where I am now is not lost on me.
I think that’s the greatest gift I’ve gained from the long periods of sickness and convalescence I’ve endured — understanding the true value of being healthy.
Nothing can take that lesson from me now, and for that, I’m deeply grateful. I’ll always be able to look back and recall exactly what it felt like to lie in that ward, watching the clock, wishing time would pass, desperately longing to feel better, to just feel like myself again.
Health and time are the two things we take for granted the most, yet they are the greatest gifts we will ever have.
Despite how quickly this year has passed, it also has been filled with nothing but time. Time to sit and reflect. Time inside. Time alone. Time apart from loved ones. It’s been tough, painful, and full of missing. But it’s also been deeply healing. I have watched as my body has transformed from a weak, thin, pale, depleted shell of skin and bones to a strong, tanned, healthy, muscular machine. I have watched the pigment return to my skin, the smile return to my cheeks, the sparkle return to my eyes. I never could have imagined the progress I would make in a year, and I’m so deeply proud of myself for persevering through those dark, drawn-out days.
For anyone facing the eye of the storm now, or fresh off the boat of treatment, I want you to know that it does get better. If only I could whisper in the ear of that scared and sick girl and tell her that everything will be OK. That things won’t stay dark forever. To hold on, there’s so much more to come.
What a year, what a life.
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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lymphoma.
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