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

Rose Colored Disco Ball

by Camille FerruzziSurvivor, Acute Myeloid LeukemiaMarch 31, 2023View more posts from Camille Ferruzzi

The question, “Will I ever be able to have kids?” fell out of my mouth without recognizing the weight of it. It was another conversation, with another doctor, about another instance of how cancer would impact my life long-term. What would be deemed an intense and difficult conversation in the real world, I ate for breakfast without batting one of my eyelash-less eyes. I had been in treatment for acute myeloid leukemia for a few months, but my god, it was what I imagined spinning around in the seventh circle of hell for a few eons felt like. A casual afternoon fertility conversation represents the gray area in which AYA cancer patients live: attempting to survive the day but wondering what the repercussions will be tomorrow. 

Going through menopause at 15 and discussing what the potential family planning options were became normal, and the thought of having kids in the traditional sense of what my upbringing had taught me became surreal. And yet, I was still a kid myself. I was tubed up and drugged out, but parts of me still wondered, “Should I be giving more shits about algebra?” 

I traded my group of friends for a group of nurses. I ditched lacrosse practice for Wii bowling from my bed. The majority of my time was allotted to simply trying to survive, but it didn’t completely relinquish the spirited teenager in me. I was still brimming with angst, annoyed by the lack of privacy I had, and attempting to get a grip on the person I wanted to grow up to be. Eventually, I got the prized second lease on life and desperately tried to get the lost time of my youth back, but, as all AYA cancer survivors know, there was no going back. I had missed out on the critical events that bond teenagers together. I couldn’t talk about what had happened at the dance, or who said what during the fire alarm drill. I wasn’t there for the test, and I had missed the spring play.

And this is potentially the most profound but harshest reality with which the AYA cancer community is dealt: you’re gifted a perspective you never asked for that will bring you to depths of understanding some won’t reach in their lifetime. It is isolating, humbling, and infuriating to hold this position at times. But there is a beauty that arrives by spinning out in the seventh circle of hell and living to tell the tale. There is a freedom in having no other option but to redefine the expected and anticipated values, perceptions, and trajectories for your own. I may not ever be a mother in the traditional sense due to chemo blasting my eggs, but I get to choose what being a mother means to me, how to show up in that role, and in what capacity. The AYA cancer community may not be able to view the world through rose-colored glasses anymore, but it’s because we smashed them to bits, created a disco ball, and are busy reinventing the meaning of life before we’re able to legally rent a car.

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