When I underwent a stem cell transplant at the beginning of the year, I was given a 40 percent chance of survival — not just for the procedure to work, but for me to live through it and the recovery. I am still in that “recovery stage,” but I am here. I am alive. And I am living.
I realized with a shock just how sick I was prior to my transplant. For me, it was simply my “normal.” I was used to having to walk with a cane, especially long distances. I was used to having to ask my husband to dry my hair for me or to help me get out of the bath. I was used to being unable to eat meat. And if I did, it would mean choking, so I always had to ensure that someone was close by should things go downhill quickly.
I was used to having my doctor’s private number on speed dial, and I was used to walking into the ICU where nurses greeted me by name. I was used to slurring my way through conversations and often drooling a puddle on my pillow during the night.
I was used to being unable to carry groceries because my hands would collapse. I was used to having a nap on our friends’ bed whenever we went for a visit. The constant exhaustion meant that I actually had no idea what it was like to have an ounce of energy, and every movement or task depleted this even further.
But now I feel like I have been given a second chance. I am so appreciative of my health and my life, and I am trying to make a positive impact on the world around me. I help people whenever I can. I take the time to sit and talk to people. I offer encouragement and advice when it is asked for.
I laugh until my cheeks are numb, and I play hide-and-seek with my friends’ children. I take my dogs for walks, and I spend time talking about our future with my husband. I have realized that we now have a future! And that he is so much more than a caregiver. We are learning new roles in our relationship, as I have always been sick. We have never known what it is like to be a normal couple worrying about “normal” things.
Choosing to go through with stem cell transplant was one of the scariest decisions of my life. We didn’t know if I would make it out alive. But how could I not grab the opportunity? Would I forever be looking back and wondering what if?
Now, I am ALIVE. I am grabbing life with both hands. Every day is a gift. Treasure it.
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