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Uninvited Intruder, Unyielding Survivor

by Nicole BoydChronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)June 18, 2024View more posts from Nicole Boyd

Dear Cancer,

If you had a face, a form, or a name, what would it be? Would it be a grotesque monster lurking in the shadows or a subtle, insidious force weaving its way through the fabric of life? As I sit down to pen this letter, I find myself grappling with a myriad of emotions— anger, sadness, gratitude, and hope—all directed toward you, the uninvited guest who barged into my life at the age of 38.

I am a full-time nurse, a single mother of three, and until your arrival, I felt invincible. Little did I know that my life was about to take a drastic turn. Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)—a diagnosis that echoed in the sterile corridors of the hospital and reverberated through my world. It was as if you handed me a script, one I never auditioned for, and demanded I play the lead role.

Three days before my 39th birthday, the curtains rose on this unwelcome performance. Treatment commenced, and as I blew out the candles on my birthday cake, I silently wished for the strength to endure what lay ahead. Little did I know the toll it would take on every facet of my existence.

You see, Cancer, you don’t discriminate. Whether you visit a billionaire in their penthouse or a single mother in a modest home, your impact is profound and indiscriminate. As a single mom, my responsibilities didn’t pause for your intrusion. Amidst administering medications, comforting my children, and juggling hospital appointments, I found myself grappling with a new role—that of a patient.

The financial strain you brought was as relentless as your cellular invasion. Medical expenses piled up, threatening the stability I worked so hard to provide for my children. The constant fear of financial ruin joined the chorus of anxieties that played in my mind like a haunting melody. Yet, in the face of this adversity, I discovered an unexpected gratitude.

Gratitude, Cancer? Yes, for in your ruthless pursuit to break me, you inadvertently strengthened the bonds of love and support around me. Friends, family, and even strangers rallied to my side, helping in ways that touched my soul. The resilience of the human spirit, it seems, can shine even in the darkest corners of illness.

Amidst the whirlwind of treatment protocols and medical appointments, I faced the stark reality of a compromised immune system. Your intrusion left me vulnerable to infections, isolating me from the world I once navigated with ease. The missed events and outings became a bitter pill, swallowing not just the experiences but the simple joys of life.

Yet, Cancer, you failed to comprehend the power of hope. In the darkest nights of treatment, when the world outside slept, hope whispered to me like a gentle breeze. It urged me to envision a future beyond hospital rooms and sterile environments. Hope, it seems, is your greatest adversary, for it thrives where you seek to extinguish.

As I celebrated my 40th birthday with the news of remission, I couldn’t help but marvel at the duality of our journey. You, with your relentless assault, and I, with my stubborn hope and the unwavering support of those who refused to let you claim victory.

So, what would I say to you, Cancer, if given the chance to address you directly? I would express anger for the upheaval you brought into my life, sadness for the moments stolen, gratitude for the unexpected kindness, and hope that transcends even the darkest chapters.

If you had a face, it would bear witness to the resilience of a single mother who refused to be defined by your intrusion. If you had a name, it would echo the strength of a community that stood together against your assault.

In the tapestry of my life, you are an indelible thread, weaving through the highs and lows, the pain and the triumphs. As I continue my journey post-remission, I carry the scars you left behind, not as marks of defeat, but as reminders of the battles won.

In conclusion, Cancer, you may have barged into my life uninvited, but you failed to evict the spirit of hope, the strength of love, and the resilience of the human soul. This letter serves not only as an expression of my experience, but as a testament to the triumph of life over the shadows you cast.


A Survivor (Nicole)

This article was featured in the June 2024 Dear Cancer issue of Elephants and Tea Magazine! Click here to read our magazine issues.

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