Two days before Thanksgiving, my counts were rising up while my self-esteem was falling. The moment I was waiting for – after being isolated in a room just to myself and my thoughts – I was finally going to be able to see freedom again. I was super excited for turkey and it was extra special because my mom usually doesn’t make turkey but she agreed to this year because of me coming home. See, all I really thought about was going back home. I thought I defeated cancer the second I walked out of that hospital but so many more emotions hit me. I didn’t feel happy; I felt scared. I felt that the further I was from the hospital, the further I was from home and that something bad would happen to me. The only instructions I got at discharge was to make sure to keep my environment clean and not to eat outside food for 3 months until I get better. They promised to check on me from time to time. The only thing they didn’t give me instruction for was how to hold back my feelings.
The following day, I was home and I remember feeling like everything was overwhelming – a bunch of lost faces showing me lost emotions that they never felt before. It was a bunch of emotions that people can’t fake. People took my opioids, trying to hide them while I was in pain because of their own fears. This led me to being very protective about pretty much anything & made me try to reject a person (and their desire to help) before they had the chance to reject me. I have fully accepted everything about me. I crave human-human interaction but I’m fast to dismiss because I just don’t want to get hurt anymore.
That same Thanksgiving, I almost died. I was rushed back into Mount Sinai’s ED due to complications of not eating and being dehydrated. I remember the day vividly – I was watching the Eagle game and could smell the stuffing of the turkey roasting, hearing the excitement of my mom’s voice downstairs. At the same time, she heard me downstairs vomiting and complaining. I was, instantaneously, no longer spending Thanksgiving eating turkey but was in my first ever ambulance into the city. Picture this: your field of view includes just a small window of the back door of the ambulance while your strapped down to the stretcher. You’re imagining everyone living their life and enjoying their day while you’re throwing up stomach acid. Pretty shitty feeling.
So, at Mount Sinai, instead of eating Turkey as I said before, I was being treated for non-stop nausea. I had an adverse reaction to the new anti-nausea medication they tried on me. This is where I felt like I was dying… my fiance was sitting across from me and nothing she was doing or saying was making sense to me… I felt so confused. I remember questioning everything that was happening, not understanding what was going on. My neck jolted one way while my hand went the opposite. I couldn’t speak but on the inside I had enormous energy trying to escape. There was 5-6 faces that came to mind that I felt like I was going to miss – telling me that if it was my time, I should have spent more time (with them). This was also the first time throughout my whole cancer treatment that I saw her break down. She never showed fear until that day and it looked very scary.
Here are all the things I’m thankful for: I am thankful for life, for health, for every single person that sat there and heard me cry, laugh… and I’m also extremely thankful for every person that told me “sorry”, that felt bad for me, that showed me pity, that ran away from their feelings, that tried to dismiss me as a broken kid because they are the reason I have my voice today. They are also the reason I am very thankful for life, but also want to change life. I feel that we should be thankful every single day: for opportunities not to repeat yesterday’s mistakes and simply being able to breathe air. There are so many things to be grateful for.
This Thanksgiving was completely different. I was home with the people that matter the most and we shared chicken (not turkey this time) which is fine by me because at least this time, I got to kick it in my room at the convenience of my time, writing out my thoughts. This is something I really enjoy doing. If I don’t write, I don’t know where I would be – probably just another statistic to a tragic loss. Always remember to show empathy and be thankful everyday, not just on a given holiday.