I went to college in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and being a Colorado girl, I was not prepared for the winters. It was on average -13F on really cold days, and that means I had to lug myself out of my apartment, all bundled up, and start my car even in the most frigid of temperatures. Zelda, my 2005 Subaru, is a trusty steed, but on those days, even after she had just run the night before, she struggled to start. The slow groan of the engine as it tried to turn over and the whine of the belts beginning to spin remind me what it is like to restart my life after being in cancer treatment.
For me, my journey has been one of speed. I was diagnosed on August 1, 2017 during a visit to urgent care for what I thought was some sort of virus. Before I even had a chance to go back and clean my dishes from the night before, I was admitted and given my diagnosis–Leukemia. My life screeched to a halt and I was now on 24 hour watch by nurses and doctors monitoring my every heartbeat. As a young adult, this was highly inconvenient for me as I was moving at breakneck speed towards finishing graduate school and finally starting my career. I had no time for this. WE have no time for this.
Cancer treatment is a deep winter. Your life, your job, your family, all frozen to their core. My engine, that ran at high RPMs, was put to rest while I received countless bags of chemo and eventually a bone marrow transplant. And when it was time for me to be released and start up again, I felt my cold engine beg for a sunnier day.
Everyone close to me seemed to start right up in my winter, and they went back to living their lives with relative ease. I, on the other hand, tried to start up as I used to, but I had been stagnant for too long. I was cold even in the places that cannot be seen. As I tried to start, my mind groaned and my joints squealed. There was this feeling of slowness within me, where everything, including staying awake, was a struggle. All I wanted was to wait for the sun to come out in my life again.
The funny thing about my cancer winter, that is nothing like actual winter, is that I am the one in charge of changing the seasons. I have control over making my spring come. Motivations paired with actions have moved me closer to my spring. Though my engine is slow to turn over, I just keep trying until it turns on, just as I did back in college with Zelda. It takes me a while to warm up, but I do start to feel more like myself every time. As my spring approaches, the cold is fading and new births rise up inside. I am different because of my winter, the old has died off and the new buds are promising things I could have never imagined.
We all go through winters, don’t we? It does not matter if it is cancer winter, or anxiety winter, or jobless winter, we have all been there. It is our responsibility to work with ourselves to welcome spring back into our lives. Sunnier days do come, and they come with such beauty and community, and our engines rev with that passionate roar. We didn’t have time for this, but we are so grateful.
Dear Jack LifeList Warrior and AYA Leukemia patient