Creating this website has been a very emotional experience. Digging up old photos, diaries, and doctor reports caused me to relive many of my past moments, good and bad. How much I’ve been through, and how young I was during these times, sometimes still shocks me.
My young self always dreamt of being someone unique and accomplished and never wanted to be normal like everybody else. However, with each diagnosis and each year growing more difficult than the rest, normal was all I wanted to be.
Twelve years of cancer treatment, lung transplant, and a stroke has taken an incredible toll on my body and on many days my spirit. On the tough days I would take things minute by minute, hour by hour until I felt better. Trying to focus on the big picture- one where I was healthy and happy once again was always the goal.
Constantly being away for so long for my treatments made it difficult to relate with my old friends. When conversations would circle around people and teachers you don’t know and things you can’t relate to you lose touch. And even when I was home, my activities were limited as I was not physically able to keep up or often anxious about my next treatment or procedure. Sometimes I felt like I was living a double life, doing all I could to hide my true condition from my friends and peers, but not fully able to live in the moment with them, either. I guess what I want people to take away from this is to reach out more to a friend/classmate, neighbor or family member dealing with medical issues or emotional hardships. Don’t assume they have lots of company or support. It could make a world of difference to them and I know I greatly appreciated when someone took the time to ask how I was doing and chat a little bit too. It was a lonely time in many ways having to be away but small gestures can go a long way.
Also worth mentioning is that cancer is not what you see on tv shows and movies. I have seen countless programs portraying “patients” with full heads of hair doing normal activities, joking with goofy nurses and flirting with other cute girl/boy patients. While this may be a reality for a select few, the experience for the most part is nothing like this and it hurts when the media sugercoats it to look more tolerable.
Needing a wheelchair to get around for the past many years I feel more recognition should be given to people with physical disabilities. I constantly see the able- bodied pack into elevators instead of taking an escalator, uneven city sidewalks and doors without wheelchair buttons or buttons that do not work. I want to call on our government to look into helping this often overlooked community. Small changes can make a world of difference.
Little things should never be taken for granted. From the air in your lungs to the loved ones in your home, anything can be taken away in an instant. Even at my lowest points, when I was barely alive and about to receive my bone marrow transplants, I tried not to pity myself because I knew there were so many worse off than me. Many people I met and became friends with passed away and I often wonder how it must have felt for them and their families to wait on test results only to hear things were taking a turn for the worse. I too went through these moments, but lucky, mine were always okay, and allowed me to hold onto hope. So, despite having gone through what I have I always remain grateful. I honour my five friends who never made it.
Today, when people ask me about the future and what I want to do I am caught off guard and unsure what to say. I have been dealing with my health for so long that I haven’t had time to think that far ahead. One thing for sure is I’d like to take a nice long vacation, maybe get back to school and try to live a purposeful life of helping others in any way I can.
Angie Rose Journey Jewelry has given me the opportunity to create a future while honoring my past. The sales of these bracelets will go to the same medical charities that have helped me. The Children’s Make-A-Wish Foundation, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Pink Pearl Foundation, YAC (Young Adults with Cancer), Toronto General Hospital and the Toronto Lung Transplant Civitan Club and so on. Many of the smaller groups need help as they receive no funding.
I feel like I owe something to this universe, as the same kindness has been bestowed on me many times. I was just an eleven year old girl when I got sick, there was no compelling reason to save me. Yet, for some reason, all these doctors and nurses made it their mission to make sure I got a chance to live. That kindness, love and compassion is what I want to give back to the world in some way. I may not be able to cure cancer or save the planet but if I can give someone else the hope they need to make it through their day, it would make all my struggles worthwhile. If I can get through it so can you!
Like my bracelets, life is a journey- smooth, bumpy, twisting and turning, long and short. No matter what shape your journey takes, keep your head held high, your spirit strong and have faith. You are worth saving and you are special. God will help you. You will be okay.
Lastly, thank you to everyone. To every doctor, nurse and specialist who had a hand in getting me better and never giving up on me. And to you, for taking the time to read about my journey.
Of course, the last thanks go to my family. They have sacrificed so much for me, I am forever grateful. I love you.