The Elephant in the Room is Cancer. Tea is the Relief Conversation Provides.

The Gift

by Christine OntiverosPatient, Hodgkin's LymphomaFebruary 28, 2022View more posts from Christine Ontiveros

In many instances, we either tell ourselves or so desperately want to believe everything happens for a reason. We usually associate that phrase when experiencing something negative or dreadful. The most common question we ask ourselves is “Why?” It is usually followed up with “How will this affect and alter my life?” Little did I know my life-altering event would be cancer.

I was 21 years old, a milestone for youth. That meant I could walk into any place without issues or limitations. I had my own place and was climbing the ladder in my field of work. It was November 2008 when the rug was pulled right from under my feet, and I suddenly found myself flat on my face. For the past couple of weeks I had been in and out of hospitals and had seen nine different specialists claiming I was battling something terminal but no one knew what.

Fast forward: I had finally received the answer I had anticipated but also very much dreaded. It was December, and I had just closed out November having an attitude of gratitude. Now it was a time of gift giving and celebrating new life because a King was born and his name was Jesus. The gingerbread and pine aromas and the décor that filled my home read “joyful,” “merry,” and “blessed.” It was a cold crisp winter day when my phone rang. The caller ID had read UCLA and the doctor requested that I come in immediately to talk about my results further. Shortly after hanging up I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions in a matter of seconds. The weight of the world was suddenly on my shoulders, crushing every bone in my body, paralyzing me.

Two days later I found myself in a cold sterile room being given my prognosis. As the doctor explained what Hodgkin’s lymphoma was, it was like I was hearing a foreign language. I heard the wind whistle in between the sky-rise buildings, I saw tree branches hit the office window, and I felt time stand still. I heard the doctor utter these muffled words: “Christine you have stage IV cancer.” My lips quivered, eyes filled like an ocean, and I felt like my heart had plummeted and anchored to the bottom of my stomach. I was advised that I would start treatment right before Christmas. Little did I know that cancer would be a gift that I would never want to return.

After what seemed like a lifetime later, I was laying in a leather recliner waiting for a nurse. My palms were sweating, and my legs were shaking uncontrollably. My IV connected to the PICC lines that were protruding out of my arms made me look like I was part robot. As the meds hit me immediately, I felt as if I was being stung by a thousand bees at once, and I experienced a discomfort that was foreign. Feeling sick was an understatement, as I was white as a ghost. I had been engulfed in fear of what was to come. Would the pain get worse? Would the treatment be successful? And what was chemo going to do to me physically? Even though I was in a chamois-like state, I noticed my hair becoming a new accessory that followed me everywhere I went.

Accepting that cancer was a new reality, I chose to change my mindset. Cancer was present in this season of my life, and I wondered how I would equip myself in this storm. I was no longer going to let cancer infect me but affect me for good. Instead of looking at life as a naïve young girl and thinking about what life had to offer me, I challenged myself in what I could offer life. What I was going to do with my time was crucial. The news that took me by surprise was the new headline in my story. That headline read “There is Purpose behind my Pain.” Purpose to never take life for granted and to always rise to the occasion of perseverance. Cancer gifted me in ways nothing else could; it gave life a whole new meaning.

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