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New Year, New Me…

by Alique Topalian PhD, MPHSurvivor, Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) January 4, 2022View more posts from Alique Topalian PhD, MPH

New year, new me… I have always absolutely hated that saying. However, this year I literally am a “new me.” Most of my cells have been killed and replaced to generate a “new me.” Living most of six months in the hospital for intensive chemotherapy has formed a “new me.” Recovery has shaped a “new me.” It almost makes you question who I even was before. I have to say that 2021 has been the most confusing, bizarre, and humbling year of my life. It has also been the most beautiful, meaningful, and insightful.

Looking back at where I was in the start of this year until now — it feels like I have been placed in the twilight zone. I went from a young, fresh PhD graduate, hungry for success, to leaving the life I built for myself behind to enter the vortex that is a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Who knew life could change so much within 48 hours?

This past year has left me questioning and reflecting on everything I know, love, and value. Back in March, I couldn’t even bear to think of the holidays or new year because I did not know if I would be there to celebrate them. But here I am, the “new me” and truthfully, I think I like this me more than I did the last. There is nothing like facing your own mortality to give your life a twist.

I am connected to my values; I realize what things in my life mean the most to me. I have been humbled to a degree that I did not even know was possible. But this humility brought passion back into my life; it made me realize how truly beautiful a sunset is, especially when it is all you have. It made me give up every inch of myself just to learn how to put all the pieces back together. To feel a sense of confidence not just from what is on the outside, but confidence in who I am and who I want to be.

This year is ending. Finished. Complete. I thought that I would be happy or relieved, to put this year behind me. While part of me is, there is also the overwhelming excitement to see what lies ahead, and the persistent fear that it could all vanish once again. For now, I know the value in a simple sunset, the freedom that comes with fresh air, and a new understanding of true love from all of those around me. More than anything, I have learned to trust myself and my gut. To advocate for myself and others and the significance of my own voice and experiences. I have relit the flame within my soul, as a phoenix I am rising from the ashes, and I am ready to set the world ablaze.

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