Light The Night Walk

Last night was the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night. It was the first one I participated in since being diagnosed with lymphoma… last year I was too weak to walk even a block, let alone a mile. I had a whole bunch of friends and family walk with me, and together, we raised about $2,600 for the society. It ended with the most amazing fireworks I have ever seen.We also wore team t-shirts with a jack-o-lantern on the front and “Squash Lymphoma” on the back, harking back to last Halloween, when I had painted my chemo-bald head orange, glued on a stem to the top, and went to my oncology appointment dressed up as pumpkin.

I had gotten a fever that Halloween, all though I was feeling fine. However, having a fever while I had cancer meant one thing – a blood transfusion. Two pints, to be exact. While I was being transfused in the outpatient hematology center, I met a girl named Sara. She was a few years older than me, but had just gotten diagnosed with the same exact lymphoma. She was also starting her chemotherapy treatments just as I was finishing mine.

We talked for a while and I told her my story. We also exchanged contact information, and I told her to call me if she had any questions or needed to vent, because I knew what she was going through. We saw each other time to time in the hospital, but around December, I didn’t see her anymore. I e-mailed her, but never received a response back. I let it go, figuring she didn’t want to talk – sometimes you just want to be left alone when you’re sick. About a month after, I asked one of the nurses how she was doing, and she told me that she had stopped going to that particular hospital. I never heard from her again.

I always wondered what happened to Sara. Last night, I found out. Before the walk started, I was walking by the memory banner, where people write names of people who had died of leukemia and lymphoma. I saw her name. I must have made a face, because one of the volunteers asked if I was all right. I burst out crying and blubbered something about knowing her and that she had the same exact cancer as me. The volunteer took my hand and said, “Honey, sometimes people do die of this. You were lucky. You’re a survivor.”

All the feelings of invincibility I once had had just washed away at that point. It suddenly made cancer very, very real to me. People could die from this. Why didn’t it feel this real when I was actually sick? It felt like a punch to the gut.

Yes, I am lucky. I went into remission quickly and kicked cancer’s ass. I’m also lucky that almost all of the people close to me who’ve had cancer also survived. I always knew I was going to be all right. And since I knew I was going to be all right, it just felt like everyone else was going to be all right, as well.

As we walked last night, I saw Sara’s family. I ran over to them to give my condolences, and her mother just hugged me tight and cried.

I don’t even know what to think and feel anymore. I just want to go outside, scream at the top of my lungs and make all the sadness and anger go away. I want to stop thinking of what could have been, what should have been, and why it always happens to good people. This is the first time I’ve gotten exteremely upset over this. CANCER, YOU %$#!ING SUCK.

Rest in peace, Sara.

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