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The true weight of survivorship is defined by the "how" and "what," of the journey. How did you approach these winding and dangerous trails, and what were the takeaways.

The View at the Top of Cancer Mountain

Survivorship…what does it mean to me? Survivorship is the overcoming of life’s challenges that are thrown at you. In this sense, everyone is a survivor, as life is not a smooth road, but a winding one. A quote I once stumbled upon, by Edward Abbey, says “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” The true weight of survivorship is defined by the “how” and “what,” of the journey. How did you approach these winding and dangerous trails, and what were the takeaways. It is the understanding and the learning of why things happen and the process you take to rise above life’s challenges and enhance your “amazing view”.

It was Tuesday, October 17, 2017, when I found out.”…” Blankness filled my mind.

What did the doctor just say? Something about a mass, tumor, malignant and lymphoma. My doctor relayed the news that the mass they found in my stomach was Non-Hodgkin’s Burkitt Lymphoma. The news came as a major shock to myself. It was supposed to be a small polyp, easy to fix… why was this happening to me? I was now looking up at the first major cliff of my mountain, and was about to face the hardest battle yet trying to climb to the top.

I was told the next four months were going to be very difficult. I went in twice a week for blood counts, lumbar punctures, scans, and chemotherapy. At this point, I was basically going through the motions of life, and the top of the mountain was still in the far, far distance. I was not feeling great about myself. The rounds of chemotherapy drained my energy emotionally and physically to the point where I could barely hold myself up. It felt as if my body’s gears were creaking to a stop. The only view I saw was of a weak, bald, ugly, useless thing. My self image was plummeting fast. The worst part was the constant pity eyes. Every time I looked into those eyes, the reality of my situation hit me all over again; I was in a battle for my life against an enemy called cancer. I was quickly slipping down the mountain and that “amazing view” was slipping farther and farther away from my line of sight.

For days, I would wake up and wonder “Why God? Why only me God?” It was not until a couple months in when I was finally feeling okay enough to attend church that I realized I was not actually alone in this difficult phase of my life. The moment I stepped through the church doors, I was greeted with warm, loving embraces, by friends who had been praying everyday for my safe recovery. I did not see a single pity glance, but smiles that exuded an admiration of my strength. For the first time in a while, I realized that the top of my mountain was reachable, and I would not have had this revelation without the love and support of my family and friends.

Looking back, I now understand I was never alone. I had God, friends who visited me everyday to lift my spirits, family who spent nights at the hospital so I was not alone, and a community of church friends who organized meal plans and caretakers to support my family and me.

On February 18, 2018, I had finally reached the top of the cliff and had risen above the mountain of cancer to watch a magnificent scene play out. That day, the oncologist called saying there was no sign of cancer in my body. After four months of treatment, I was finally in remission. A great wave of relief and happiness enveloped my family, friends, and me as this challenging journey came to a close. While this chapter of my life has ended, I am moving forward with a renewed outlook on life. I know I will face many more crooked and dangerous trails, but with the support of my friends and family, I know that I will be able to rise above them all and expand my vista.