On October 15, 1992, I was diagnosed with stage IV non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Upon hearing that news, I went completely numb and silent as we drove over to my parents to break the news. I could not bring myself to look or speak to them, as I was in complete shock.
FOMO, the abbreviated slang meaning “fear of missing out,” is a huge mental and emotional side effect of being a young adult cancer survivor and represents just a sliver of the unique challenges we have to face during and well after the fight of our lives.
My early twenties were everything I imagined they would be. They were fun, filled with life and discovery, naive in the best of ways, connected by travels, and laced with endless dreams. This was until I hit a road block at age 25. Cancer stood in my tracks. What was I to do?
During my own cancer journey, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of asking questions and getting multiple opinions. I had to be my own advocate to ensure the best possible care. Otherwise, my outcome might have been very different.
Music has many benefits. It can create encouragement, motivation, determination, resilience, and the ability to cope. Most importantly, it can heal. Sometimes when there are no words or there is nothing to say, music says it all.
Waiting to turn 21 as a member of the millennial generation is a rite of passage with a whole slew of traditions. For me, it was drinking a margarita at midnight on a Tuesday while doing advertising homework, enjoying a birthday cake with a drunk look-alike Barbie doll adorned by liquor shots and finally using those alcoholic emojis on Facebook without fear of legal repercussion.
When people ask how I am doing or what my cancer experience was like, I struggle to find the words. I struggle because everyone seems to have been touched by this devastating disease. They themselves may have fought cancer, lost a loved one too soon, met someone whose life was changed by the disease, or rallied behind a stranger through social media. We are all incredibly connected and aware of struggles and celebrations in the lives of others.
Having such a simple question asked a certain way can really humanize you during a time when normalcy seems like the distant past. I was still Mary. I still had the same parents, same car and same clothes. Why should being a little extra sick make a difference?