I had leukemia. I had it and now I don’t and that should be that. Only it’s not. It’s a memory that won’t go away. Not a haunting memory, not a slow-motion replay of a rear-end collision where you find yourself clenching your arms against the seat, looking back over your shoulder for the too-fast car that isn’t there. No. Leukemia is vague with occasional flashes of coherence. It is a constant hum.
Sometimes, even this many years later, that hum transforms into a brief shout.
Pay attention, it says. Do not forget me. I can make your body remember even if your mind wants to forget.
As if I could. As if any of us could ever forget what leukemia does — to our sons and daughters, to our sisters and brothers. Our spouses. Parents. It is an unforgiving, cross-generational killer.
Of course we’ll never forget.
Details, though? Specifics? They fade with time.
And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I don’t want to remember the way my chest felt, all swollen with blood when I couldn’t stop bleeding internally after my Hickman catheter was put in. It’s probably a very good thing to let those sorts of memories fade to black.
So I choose different ones. Looking back to that spring when I had to fight back against leukemia before I turned twenty-one, I choose to remember my family, and my friends, and two amazing nurses who helped pull me through.
I remember the good times: their love and support, our collective smiles and laughter and even tears as we tried to focus on what mattered most.
You know, for good or bad, directly or indirectly, cancer changes the lives of everyone it touches. It’s what we choose to do with that change that makes all the difference.
Together, we choose to fight to create a world without blood cancers.