That is a big, ugly, scary word. It is a word that people whisper in hallways so it doesn't taint the ears of others. It's a painful word. A dark word. And you know what? I want to talk about it.
As the readers of this blog know, my initial purpose in beginning this website was to share bits and pieces of a journey I would undergo as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I came home 8 months earlier than I had planned because I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, with Stage 3 CNS Involvement. It has been a long and difficult journey, and a battle that continues to challenge me every single day. However, I will bore you with the details of my diagnosis in another blog post.
The other day I had the opportunity to complete a scholarship that asked me to write a letter to myself that I wished I had received at the beginning of my diagnosis. I wanted to share it and highlight the fact that no matter what happens to us in this life, we have a choice. We can choose to be positive and to humble ourselves, or we can choose unhappiness and rebellion. I am not going to act like I am optimistic each and every day -- I can assure you that I am not -- but that's not the point. As Marjorie Hinckley once said, "The only way to get through life is to laugh your way through it. You either have to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache."
Life is beautiful, and you are strong. You are going to have to remember and believe that, especially when it gets hard. I am not writing this letter to convince you that your sickness will pass like a lemon drop fantasy. I am not going to lie to you. Cancer is hell. Fighting this demon they named lymphoma is going to take everything you have and everything you are. But you are a light. You are vibrant. You pulse and breathe with color. And lights shine the brightest in the darkness.
There are going to be dark times. There are times where you are going to think that this is the end, and you can’t go on. Times when you feel that the only air in the room is pressing down your lungs and choking you with desperation. Times when your fears rain down and drench you until your toes are numb with cold. Times where your soul will scream agonizing cacophonies unheard to anyone but yourself and you will feel that no one truly understands the pain the anguish and the deep set hurt and the questions of why and how that tumble through your mind like black glass breaking on a shore of heartache.
These are but passing moments. There is so much more. There are the moments you truly are alive for. The moments that count.
Life is full of sunlight drifting through cotton puffs of clouds that tints your cheeks pink and makes your eyes shine like diamonds. It is full of reflections and of memories that flit backwards through your mind and replay themselves on the sides of skyscrapers. It is full of the sweet sting of water on your face as you laugh up at the stormy sky. It is the moment when you fall asleep in a bundle of warm linens freshly toasted by the sun, and when the night is so still that you can hear the whisperings of the stars in the heavens above you.
Life is in the people who surround you. It is in the loving face of your mother and the worry lines that have appeared there since your treatment began. It is in the piercing blue eyes of your father smiling over his princess’ little bald head. It is in the doctors and your nurses, your mortal angels who sometimes sing Billy Joel to cheer you up. It is in the friendship you found with a woman named Brenda who brings you crushed ice when you are sick and talks to you about God. It is in the sacred memories of the people who stole your heart from across the sea who have supported your every footstep.
Your life is a story. So take the pen and write. Run with your life and savor every good moment, every great moment. One day this night will break and you will realize that the sun is rising over those dusty purple mountains and it will break with hues of gold and fire and victory. And you know what? That’s just the start. There are whole new worlds you are going to discover that lay beyond those beautiful mountains. There are lives to touch, foods to eat, people to meet, and a person to become. THIS ISN’T THE END. This is only your beginning.
- - One Who Has Walked the Road