Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

It's no secret that I've had a rough go of things over the past few months. It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that this is a difficult time in my life; probably the hardest thing I've ever been through.

A number of holidays have passed since I've been sick. Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas; I watched them all come and pass without saying anything particular to them. I wanted to, I meant to, even planned to, because holidays are important, but for some reason I didn't find the words.

It's always important to take time to appreciate the meaningful things in life. I'm sorry for having missed my opportunities when the occasions were upon us, but today is New Year's Eve, a day for reflection and looking forward, and I believe that in order to know where we're headed, we have to appreciate where we're coming from.

I was watching ESPN on Veteran's Day, and the anchors were talking about our soldiers and the sacrifices they make for our country each and every day. They were commenting on how ridiculous it is to use "wartime vocabulary" with regards to sports. Sports are just games, and though the players seemingly "battle" against one another for supremacy on the court or field, ice or what-have-you, an athlete's struggle is far different from the real wars being waged by our brave armed forces.

It made me think about the terms of my own battle, and how complicated it is. I am fighting (I feel secure in using that descriptor) an illness that my body created, unintentionally, yet one that nevertheless threatens my life. I wage my fight with the help of chemotherapy, a recipe of toxic drugs, which has, thus far, yielded amazing results. Unfortunately, the drugs introduce a new struggle between their effects on my body and my ability to recover from them, making me feel like the battleground of some internal chaos that leaves my insides burned and pillaged.

But I've never seen a real battlefield, not a live one, anyway, and I have the utmost respect for those who defend our country and our liberties with their lives. They are the men and women willing to make the ultimate sacrifices so that we may enjoy the way of life to which we've become accustomed, and for that they are true heroes.

Naturally, on Thanksgiving, I thought about the things in my life for which I am grateful. My friends and family came immediately to mind; like most people, I don't know what I'd ever do without them. I was appreciative of the deliciously robust meal, as I always am, but this year I was especially thankful that I was able to keep it all down.

Past all that, however, I had a hard time finding reasons to be thankful. I settled on the fact that despite my current conditions, I'm still fighting, and eventually I should be better, despite how challenging everything is right now. In other words, I'm thankful to still have a chance at a future, beyond all of this, regardless of the odds and probabilities with which I've been faced, presuming I can continue to persevere.

I've learned to appreciate all of the December holidays, because for all of their differences and the differences between the people who observe them, they bring people together in celebration. One day, I hope to see everyone celebrating together, accepting of our individual differences, eager to learn one another's values, and motivated by a common purpose, but for now I'll settle for people coming together in warmth and joy.

I also like presents, just like everyone else, so the December holidays are definitely where it's at.

Again, today is New Year's Eve. A brand new year is upon us. A brand new decade is about to begin. I'll spend the first few months undergoing treatment, but I'm hopeful that the second half of 2010 will be better than the year preceding it.

I'm grateful to have seen another year pass, and I've not forgotten the joys of this last year either. I know it hasn't all been bad, and I guess I've learned to value those precious moments more than I have in the past. That's why I'm so anxious to be out and living again, because I want a chance to appreciate things more than I used to; to see things through a brand new, brighter scope; to meet new people and let them change me, and to hopefully make a difference to them as well.

With each new year brings new opportunities, more chances to touch and be touched, to hold and be held, and to better ourselves so that we can make ourselves happy, because above all we must be happy with who we are when we're all alone. It's an ongoing process, in my opinion; an endless, ever-changing journey that will only offer new challenges as the circumstances in our lives continue to change, but it's a worthy purpose and a journey that I'll hopefully pledge to continue each new year.

And tonight, on the eve of the new year, we celebrate with friends and family, and may we forget for a while the fighting and sickness because holidays are meant to be celebrated. And I love a good celebration, in case you didn't know.

So Happy New Year! I wish everyone a safe and wonderful night, and a happy beginning to an unforgettable 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Be Careful

I've made the decision to wait until after New Years' for my next round of chemo. It was a difficult choice, and one that I'm still surprised at myself for making, but now that I've said it I'm trying not to change my mind. I still hate postponing chemo, and I want to be finished with it as soon as possible. I want to be finished with all of it. I finally realized that allowing myself to feel good for a few days isn't going to make that much of a difference in the long run.

I've pushed through ten consecutive rounds of chemo at an every-two-week pace. The doctors have told me repeatedly that maintaining that pace is simply unfeasible, but hearing them say that just makes me want to prove them wrong.

I was planning to force myself back into the hospital today or tomorrow, today being the twelfth day since the start of the most recent five-day round (meaning I've been out a week). But I've been a mess since then. My stomach is always a shambles, but this round and its accompanying virus really made me feel that I might be hurting myself if I don't let my body heal.

At first, I thought I might be able to go through chemo the two days right before New Years' Eve and then just make the best of the way I was feeling on the actual occasion. I might be miserable, but I'd be one step closer to being done. But If I waited a few days, my stomach might actually recover, and I'd have a chance to get out of the house and explore the outside world for a little while.

I went back and forth over what to do countless times, and along the way I realized that though I may be sick, and for that reason approach my life from now on with a little more regard to my well-being, I don't ever want to be careful.

I think it would be easy to take being sick and use it as a reason to try to avoid bad things from happening. It would be easy to start being scared, but what's the point of living scared? Shouldn't my flirtation with death teach me to go for what I want and to take some chances rather than holstering all of my guns and playing it safe? I don't actually own any guns, I'm just shooting for a metaphor, but really, I don't think that's what I'm supposed to do. I've acquired a heightened appreciation for life and living, so I'm going to chase after life, not wait for it to find me.

Going back in for chemo in the next two days wouldn't be careful of me, that's not what I'm saying. If anything, it would be brash and stubborn, both of which are words I would readily use to describe myself. But I've also pledged to be easier on myself. I still demand a certain standard of commitment and results, but this time I'm taking the doctors' advice and giving my body a break. And, at the same time, I'm rewarding myself with New Years' Eve. A celebration.

I have a ways to go, and after extending this round an extra two or three days, I'll be right back on the two-week regiment as long as my counts can bear it. Right now, though, I'm craving a chance to celebrate the ten I've already completed.

I've already promised myself to be cautious and to avoid trouble, at least for this year's New Year's Eve. The perils of coming down with something are no mystery to me. But if I'm not going to be infused with drugs and bedridden, I should really try to enjoy myself.

Like I said, I'll be back to the grind after just a few days, and I don't plan on slowing down or looking back. I'll plan ahead, though I won't deliberate to the point of frustration. I'll count the days until the things I'm looking forward to, though I won't be too calculated in the pursuit of my dreams. And I'll be responsible, and consider consequences before I act, and I'll do my best to avoid putting myself and others in danger, though I'll never be too careful.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


While I was in the hospital, my dog thought it wise to eat a rock and a piece of rubber from one of her toys. She's been in surgery for the past two days having them removed, but thankfully she'll be alright and she's coming home today.

I've really missed my puppy over the past week. She's three years old now, so she's not exactly a puppy anymore, but she hasn't lost any of her boundless energy and recklessness. I love having her around, because she always keeps things interesting when I'm unable to remove myself from the couch. And she's always willing to share it with me, even if she'd rather be digging up rocks or clogging her intestines with rubber balls.

It's a little difficult for me to understand, though, the thought, or lack thereof, behind ingesting a stone. Can the things that go through Josie's mind really be that simple?

"Eat that rock. Tear apart that toy. Kick that man in the nuts. Lick his face."

I know that can't constitute the enormity of Josie's cognitive and emotional capacities. She can always tell how I'm feeling, and she's empathetic and affectionate. She gets jealous when she feels left out, and I swear she can understand almost all of the things I say to her. And lastly, she's got those sweet puppy dog eyes that make me melt, even when she's bad.

I hope she's been alright all by herself in the hospital. I know how lonely that can be, and I also know how afraid she gets. She can't even go out into the backyard alone at night without someone going with her. She's so strong and athletic, though, I don't get it. I guess she's just spooked by the dark, which isn't so uncommon, but I don't want her to be afraid.

When Josie came home after being spayed, she was back to her sprightly self in no time. I'd assume most dogs would relax and recover over the course of a few days after something like that, but not this one. She was ready to play from the moment she set paw in the house.

That was a long time ago, and I'm hoping Josie still has the same vigor she had then, but I'm not worried. It's just my turn to comfort her, because she'd do the same for me. I'm anxious to have her home again.


I hate it when I can taste the chemo. I can taste it in my mouth and on my tongue, and I can feel it in my stomach. It hurts. I can smell it on my breath and escaping through my pores, and I can feel it oozing out of my eyeballs. At the corners, they're welling up, but not in the shape of tears. I don't want to taste it. And I can't sleep. I can never fall asleep.

I regretted doing this the last time I did it. But what is there to regret? I don't have a reason to regret. Not tonight. I just feel like a fool for trying to find meaning where there is none. At least not right now. Maybe I'll find it tomorrow.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Round 10

Today is the second day of round 10 of my chemotherapy. I'm proud to have made it this far, into double digits, and I'm hoping that the rush of accomplishment will carry me through the impending nausea and sickness. My doctor anticipated that at the end of the last round, when my hemoglobin had fallen to 9.5, that I would need a blood transfusion prior to this round to ensure that my body was fully ready. Usually, they like to administer transfusions when my hemoglobin falls to about 8 so that I'm not too tired. As it turned out, however, my hemoglobin actually rose to over 10. She also advised that I receive Neupogen shots until Sunday, knowing that I was planning to come in and have blood taken on Monday for a Tuesday admission (the way I always do, coming in a day in advance in order to minimize the headache of admission day). Unfortunately, I got a call back on Monday telling me that my white blood cell count was actually too high for chemo the next day, and that I had to wait another day at home before coming in to begin.

An extra day of staying home at the best end of the cycle, feeling good. That's great, isn't it? Well, either that or I am the only crazy moron in the world who gets inexplicably impatient when I'm given an extra good day to postpone impending misery. But I could have told those people advising us that I didn't need to take Neupogen all the way through the weekend, that I was strong after maybe seven or eight shots and that any more would be unnecessary. Regardless, we followed their lead and after eleven consecutive days of shots, my white blood cells were spiked like the punch at a junior high school dance, and there was nothing I could do but drink it.

I guess it just bothers me when other people dictate the details of my plan to me. They are they experts, after all, but I feel as if they didn't talk to each other, let alone to me, about the best way of going about this last cycle. It was my first cycle with my new doctor, and I don't want to go running around saying that I miss the old doctor, because I'm confident that this will turn out fine. I guess we just need to maintain better communication to reach the best results. She did, however, admit to me that my case has deviated so far from the "textbook" case due to my quick response times and constantly replenished strength, that it's difficult for her to predict my needs. And that was a humbling thing to hear from such a renowned doctor.

I realize that what I'm asking for is much easier said than done. A lot of times, we struggle with communication with those about whom we truly care and play a very significant role in our lives, so it might be a little unrealistic to demand optimal communication among staff at a hospital. It's in the best interest of the patients, but it's impossible for any one of them to have all of the answers. I've learned, now, that I need to be a part of these discussions because I am, in fact, at this point the one who knows most about my treatment and my reactions to the treatment, and, in effect, about what I need.

But communication is always at the very least a two-way street, yet the lack thereof seems to be the weakness in so many of our cherished relationships. I've noticed how hard it is to talk about things that cannot be changed; things that happened in the past, and no matter how much the culprit of those actions wishes to be able to take them back, it takes the biggest toll on that person's partner. A lot of times, that partner is unable to express adequately the reason or extent of their hurt, and without that communication there is little to be done. Unfortunately, it becomes a vicious cycle of hurt, sadness, and the inability to make things better, no matter how ready and willing one person might be to say the right thing and make it all go away.

I think this happens most often in regards to things that happened in the past. I've learned, however, that we can't change the past, and that to judge someone for the things they used to do, especially if they have become a stronger, more mature person now, is just utterly pointless. I'm not saying that thinking about the past is never going to hurt, but it really shouldn't effect the things two people can share moving forward. It's just not fair to either person.

Now, if these things exist not only in the past, and continue to live on in some capacity for one of the parties involved, then that's an entirely different story. It's hard to force someone out of our minds and lives entirely, for good, and it's not always something we can consciously decide, though we can prioritize and keep certain people at a distance for our own best interest and the best interests of those whom we care about most.

I still advocate communication above all costs. People are different, and what one person might consider a big deal might not be that serious to someone else. But in order to build the strongest relationships possible, we need to exhibit honesty and trust, because hiding things will only make them a bigger obstacle to cross when they eventually do come to the surface.

I feel like what I'm saying is almost second nature at this point, it's been said so many times before. But failed or stunted communication still plays a large role in my life. My doctor and I have agreed to talk more often about the phases through which I'm going, along with the following steps that make the most sense for the both of us. And good communication will continue to play a vital role in all of my relationships, big or small. Communication is so closely related to honesty and trust, which are two of the things on which I pride my relationships. If not for trust, anyway, do we really have anything at all?

In two weeks, I'll have to make the decision whether or not to squeeze in another two-day chemo immediately before New Years' Eve. I'll either have to trust that my body will feel well enough to enjoy the holiday, or I'll have to postpone the chemo until a few days later; and I hate postponing chemo. This time, my doctor and I will talk about the best option for me and my treatment, and hopefully come to a conclusion with which I am happy.

For now, though, I'm focused on defeating number 10, and in four more days returning back home, overwhelmed with that familiar sense of accomplishment. And I'll remind myself that in my relationships, communication will always be vital. There will always be things that I or someone else can't change, but I can always be open and honest about the way I am and the way I'm feeling.

I've learned to try not to judge someone for the things that may have happened before they ever knew me. Nobody can change those things, and worrying about them is about as useless as asking those unanswerable questions we all love to ask, though the answers are expectedly unsatisfactory. We can take things one day at a time, and trust that the things people say to us now, and that they will still say tomorrow, are enough to make us happy. Nobody is perfect, not on their own, but I sort of believe that what two people can share might be perfect, if not the closest thing to it that we're ever going to find.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I was quite disappointed when I realized recently that my eyebrows had disappeared. They had given me the impression that they might hold on through this ordeal, but apparently they just didn't have the longevity I thought they had. The hairs on top of my head were gone almost instantly, so good riddance to them, but I thought my eyebrows were different. As it turns out, they were as fickle as the rest of them.

It's hard to get over that, when you expect something to be there, and it's there for a while, but then before you know it, it's gone. And I can't just readily forgive that right away, no matter how insignificant my eyebrows might seem. The reality is that whenever I look in the mirror, I anticipate my eyebrows being there, and it takes me a moment every time to acknowledge and accept their absence.

It's also an interesting experience not having any facial hair. Obviously, I made it a good portion of my life without any; I wasn't the one four year-old in the world with a beard, but I figured that once I had hair on my face, it was there to stay. I don't miss shaving, and I don't think any guy would, but when you add up all of the vanishing acts, it makes for a very different looking face. I have yet to get used to it.

Because of the shaving aspect, I'm not as upset with my facial hair as I am with my eyebrows, though I find myself wearing my glasses much more than I ever have in the past. I like to believe that wearing them lessens the shock of a person without eyebrows, though I don't think anyone would judge me. I just wish my brows hadn't fooled me into thinking they were sticking around, and that they had fallen off right from the beginning. I guess maybe they didn't know they were ever going to fall off, the same way people mean the things they say when they say them, not knowing that someday they might not mean them anymore. Maybe my eyebrows thought they wanted to be a part of my face forever, but then things happened and things changed, and they wanted out. It's not a crime to change your mind about the things you think you want, and I guess sometimes the only way of going about getting them involves someone getting hurt. I'm not sure if that makes it wrong to say those things that are true at the time they're said, since feelings are always subject to change. I'm not sure if I'm just talking about my eyebrows anymore.

I'm told that when my hair eventually does grow back, it might not be the same as it was before. It might be a different color or a different texture, but I'm hoping to regrow the hair I'm used to having. It wasn't the best hair, or the prettiest, or the softest, but it was my hair, and I want it back. I'll take things as they come, however, and if my hair is different, I'll accept that and move forward as best I can, but I'm hoping for something familiar. I already know that plenty of things will never be the same again as they used to be, and that they're not going back to the way they were, and I'm fine with that. But I'm holding out hope that this one thing will return to normal, though I've learned to temper my expectations so I'm not disappointed.

But if we always worry about being disappointed, and for that reason never get our hopes up, or get really excited, or get butterflies in our stomachs when we meet someone who gives us butterflies, then how will we be as happy when things do turn out the way we want them to? And aren't we selling ourselves short?

It doesn't seem to matter how sick I get, or how weary I am, or how angry I can be with my eyebrows, I don't think I'll ever be numb to pain. I may learn to have a higher threshold, but I'll never be numb. Hopefully, I'll just always be that much happier when things go my way.

I will welcome my eyebrows back whenever they do decide to return, and the same goes for the rest of my hair. I'm disappointed in them now, but I know I'll just be happy to see them again.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My Jordan Year

I think a lot about what I'm going to do when I finally have the opportunity to get out of the house, back into the world, and to resume my life. Let's assume, for conversation's sake, that I will once again have that chance and that this part of my life is temporary. Before anything else, I think I'm going to take some time to myself and do some of the things I want to do. I mean, I guess you could say that right now I'm getting time off, or a break, from real life, but it doesn't feel that way. And before I begin real life again, I think I'll be entitled to a real break where I can leave the pills and shots, aches and nausea behind.

I'll go where I want to go, and I'll see who I want to see, if they want to see me too, and for a little while I'll ignore the inevitable demands and responsibilities that await my return to normalcy. For a little while, however long it lasts, I'm not going to worry about anything except enjoying myself. And that's something I'll try to take home with me, but I haven't forgotten how difficult it is to live worry-free. The steady schedule of tests and scans to which I'll subscribe for the rest of my life may make carefree living that much more challenging as well.

But I will take the time I'm craving just to be out there in the world again, wide-eyed and impressionable as a young child to beauty and splendor I've never known or seen. I'm not going to set a time to it, or draw up a plan, either. When I can go, I'm just going to go. I'll figure out where, and for how long will be a question I'll answer when I'm out there, but for once I want to abandon boundaries and limitations. I know they'll be anxiously awaiting my return, when I'm ready to be subject to them again.

And that day will come as well, when it's time to come home and start anew. It will be like starting from scratch; I'll have to build my entire life all over again. And I don't feel that young, anymore. Twenty-three could be argued either way, I guess, young or old, but I no longer feel defined by age. Experience has dictated my rate of maturation, though I presume it's never really too late to start over.

I won't have a job, and obviously I can't live at home forever, though my parents might try to convince me otherwise. My friends have jobs and roommates and leases, but I don't feel like I need to force myself to make up ground. The bottom line is that I want to spend my time doing the things that I really want to do. Life is too short to get stuck doing something I don't enjoy. Patience is a virtue, right? Though maybe the most frustrating of them all, it may be the quality in which I am most well-versed. So I'll employ it then as I employ it now, and over time I'll do my best to adorn my life with the people and circumstances that make me happiest. It's the only way that makes sense to me.

All of this is easier said than done, though, isn't it? Otherwise, we'd all be happy-go-lucky and ultimately satisfied with our conditions, but that doesn't seem to be the case for everyone. I'm hoping that my adjusted perspective on life will provide me with the vision and foresight to make decisions that will, in turn, make me happy.

I'm lucky to have good friends and family who care, because even though I'll have plenty of work to do, I'll never be starting with nothing. After all, I really think it's the people with whom we share this life that make it worthwhile in the end. And it's the time we spend with them that proves most memorable.

I call this lost year my "Jordan Year." It began when I was still twenty-two, but I'll spend most of the year at age twenty-three fighting this disease. Hell, who knows, I could be fighting it for the rest of my life, but I just don't want to think that way. But Michael Jordan, whom I idolized growing up, wore number 23. Every basketball fan knows that; it's like knowing that there are fifty states. And I always wondered what I'd be doing when I reached twenty-three. I imagined grandeur, though I never considered such plight.

My Jordan Year will continue to teach me invaluable lessons that I never wanted to learn. It will continue to put things in perspective and change my perspective and rearrange my values. I can't wait to be free again; I'll start running and I won't stop until I get where I'm going, wherever that might be. That's all I know right now. Anything past that is a mystery.

But maybe those are the only answers I need, and maybe that's all I really need to know at all. Something's always going to fill in the blanks. For the first time, I'm starting to feel okay with not having all the answers.

Monday, December 7, 2009


In hindsight, I think I may have been a little overexcited for the season's first snow. Sure, it's beautiful to see the outdoors blanketed white, but I certainly underestimated the accompanying cold. Furthermore, I've realized that under normal circumstances, snow is especially refreshing because it provides a wonderfully good reason to stay inside and sink into a sea of covers. I, on the other hand, need no such excuse, as such is my daily existence, so unless I become particularly motivated to go outside and roll around in it, the snow has brought me only marginal satisfaction.

Nevertheless, I refuse to lose appreciation for those few things in which I find beauty. Being isolated, or sheltered, from the outside world makes it easy to forget what's out there. I don't want to forget that good things do exist, and that I may still find them, though I'm so jaded and discouraged by life's injustice.

When I was little, my mom and I used to make up bedtime stories. We thought we were pretty good at it, too. We said that one day, we'd go into business together writing children's books. I would do most of the writing (my mom always thought I was so creative), and she would do the illustrations. My mom is a very talented artist.

The main character in our stories was a boy named Bean-in-the-Box. Naturally, he was about my age, though I can't remember his real name, and he loved boxes. Bean-in-the-Box absolutely adored boxes. Cardboard boxes, wooden boxes, you name it, he wanted them. And by accumulating as many boxes as he could, Bean-in-the-Box was able to construct an enormous fort, or maze, that took up most of his bedroom. It had different levels where he could climb, and nooks in which he could hide, and every night Bean's dad would bring home a brand new box to add to the collection. Sure, Bean had a bed where he slept, I don't think anyone really wants to sleep in a box, but Bean-in-the-Box had a refuge; a secret world to which he could escape and not be bothered by anything or anyone.

Ironically, Bean-in-the-Box had a younger sister the same age as mine, with the same name, though I'm not sure she was allowed access into Bean's box world. What gets me, though, is the foresight Bean-in-the-Box had to know that he would always benefit from having a means of getting away from everything. He knew about trying to escape well before he ever knew the things that I know now. But he wasn't afraid of being alone, I'll give him that, and I have a suspicion he didn't find it hard to express the way he felt.

The trouble I saw with Bean-in-the-Box was that he may have been too complacent with his boxes. Sure, he was just a boy, but he needed to get out and pursue more adventure if he were ever really going to become a popular children's book character.

I keep coming back to this idea of escape; I can't seem to get away from it. I want so badly to step outside again, to try to be happy on my own terms, but I'm afraid I won't be able. I feel stuck, trapped, in this mold, and the longer I stay in it the harder I fear it will be to break free. Especially now, knowing so well how easily things break and how quickly they can disappear.

I know I can't hide in boxes, and I know that faithless can turn to faithful in an instant. I've fallen into something I'll never fully escape, through no fault of my own, but there's no place for fear.

Today, I'm jaded. Maybe tomorrow I'll be surprised.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Hope and Uncertainty

Today, for the first time, I can count the number of remaining rounds on my one hand. It's still two and a half more months of chemo, then radiation and weeks of vaccines, but I'm still proud of having made it this far.

That said, I still can't help being scared sometimes. It's just the honest truth; sometimes, I'm really scared that chemo will stop working, or radiation or these vaccines that are supposed to keep the tumor from returning just won't work and it will come back stronger than ever. One thing I know is that when I finish all of this treatment, I never ever want to endure it again.

But that's the problem, isn't it? There's always uncertainty, no matter what the situation is. It seems that death might be the only real certainty in life.

It wasn't until I got sick that I really understood how one day is never guaranteed from the next. It's difficult to see each day as a blessing, especially when I feel there's so much on which I've been missing out. It's easy to forget that I am still living, I'm still feeling, and I know I'll never stop dreaming.

But death is an inevitable part of life, and unfortunately, it appears to be prevalent in this cancer world; a world I never asked to be a part of, or to be granted access, but it is a world of uncertainty in which I find myself at any rate.

For months, I tore apart my daily life searching for hope, but found nothing but the same familiar loneliness and those same unanswerable questions.

People find unpredictable ways of entering our worlds, and we can't just close ourselves off to them. At least, I can't. The sad part is that we never know how people will leave our worlds, either, though we can anticipate the impact they will leave on our lives and in our hearts.

I feel lucky to have met some amazing people so far along this journey. Between the nurses, doctors, and everyone involved at Columbia and the National Cancer Institute, it's touching to see how many people truly care. And they have to know from the beginning that they can't save everyone, it's just a part of the job description. I admire their ability to persevere, though I doubt whether or not I'm constructed with the emotional fortitude necessary to do what they do.

And then there are those who enter our lives when we least expect them to, seemingly out of thin air, with the ability to change everything without doing anything at all. Like a moth to a flame, we follow their light, unquestioning, and relying on faith that their guidance will uplift our floundering spirits. Of course, these people may not always live up to the billing, or our expectations for them, but then again sometimes they do. And when they do, it's like waking up to a different world. Possibility and adrenaline overshadow uncertainty, and we're given a glimpse of the way life could be; the way it should be.

Once we've tasted that life, that unbridled joy, even for a moment, it's pretty hard to imagine letting it go again. Why would we? Why would we ever want to or have to? I want to be inspired, and I've been given hope; hope that may carry me through these next few months, and hope that this life can still offer me wonderful things that I've not yet come across. But right now, today, there's a pain inside of me that I can't shed, because I don't want to lose that hope and I don't want to go back to my old world.

It doesn't make sense that we could so easily be so happy, but circumstances so far out of our control, or even our realm of influence, dictate our conditions and dole out our pain. I don't use the word "fair" anymore; it's a useless thought that breeds only frustration.

I feel like I've been given the greatest gift one can receive in this life, and for that I am eternally grateful. But in this cancer world, nobody is safe, and I can't keep anyone safe, even those I wish I could more than anything. I suppose that's a fact of life in any case, though, unconfined by the characteristics of illness and disease.

So I'm going to be brave in the face of unshakable uncertainty, and I would never dream of giving back what I have gained. I'll hold onto it as long as I can, because it's changed me, and I'm not going back to the way I was before.

I can't decide the future, regardless of how content I think I could be with what I've found. But I've learned that things can always change, and things can always get better. And, even in spite of the most unlikely odds, people can get better. Odds are just numbers, while people can accomplish amazing things, and miracles do happen. I've got to hold onto that belief, and somehow I've got to have faith that things can turn around, and that I may still end up with what I want. And I know I'll never lose hope. I couldn't, because she, hope, found me.