I don't have any known late-term side effects from my cancer treatments. However, I underwent two and a half years of fairly new, intense chemotherapy. They don't know exactly what the long-term results could be, and that terrifies me. I would never have it any other way, of course - without treatment, I would have died. Still, sometimes I find myself wondering "what if?" I think it's the biggest question on the minds of many cancer survivors, and that's why I'm going to address it today.
When I was eleven years old, about a year after diagnosis and in the midst of treatment, I wrote in my little journal: “Sometimes, I think ‘why me?’ But then I think, why anybody else?” I like to approach the “what if?” question from the same perspective. It’s a moot point. That world which contains “what if?” and all the possibilities it entails doesn’t exist and never will. Still, you can’t keep yourself from wondering.
I don’t know what caused my leukemia, and neither do my doctors. But I’ve learned enough as a pre-pharmacy major to know that it was probably something external. Some sort of chemical runoff in the creek I constantly played in with my dogs. Or in the fields I kicked my soccer ball through. I was an adventurous kid, always outside, always getting wet and muddy. It hurts to think that something I did probably caused it, even though I had no way of knowing.
I think it would be easier to accept if I thought my leukemia had been caused by a completely random mutation in my own body. Like then it would be a natural part of me, like my blond hair or blue eyes or 5’8” height. But I always wonder, because it wasn’t a natural part of me (most likely), what would I have been like otherwise? Would I have been taller? Prettier? Would I have had a completely different life than the one I lead now?
And that’s always when I come to the realization that I don’t care what I would have been like. Because I LOVE my life. I’m getting a great education every day, I’m on the way to my dream career, I have a family and friends who love me and I love them all back. I’ve made millions of happy memories in the time since my diagnosis. It’s helped me decide what I want to be, what I want to do. It’s given me an appreciation for my body, for taking care of it, for the health I am blessed with.
And as far as possible late-term side effects go… I know I could have issues in the future. I could have heart problems or fertility problems, or maybe even problems they aren’t aware of yet. That terrifies me, and it always will. But there are just some sacrifices you have to make in life, some trade-offs. I had no other option than to receive the treatments, and if you’ve read my past blog posts you know I’m 100% for chemo. Because it saved my life, and it made those millions of memories I mentioned before possible. I wouldn’t trade those memories for anything, not even a life that never included cancer.