Sunday, June 14, 2009

Six years later...

On June 9th, I quietly celebrated another milestone — I'm six years cancer-free. No one in my family remembered the day. I didn't even hardly remember it myself until I looked at the date while I was helping someone at work and realized another year had passed.

I found a picture of my brother and I right after I had been diagnosed. It's crazy to think that six years have passed since then. And last year, when I was officially in remission, I was away from my family and didn't get to celebrate. So I'm posting the essay I wrote for a contest recently to have a little party of my own — and to maybe help someone who has gone through cancer or watched someone else struggle with it.

“You have Hodgkin’s Disease,” the doctor said, holding a box of Kleenex in his hands and expecting my parents and I to grab one. So we did, blotting tears with a tiny scratchy square of fiber and wondering what we were going to do next. I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, I thought, even though I was obviously not OK. Nothing was OK. I was sixteen years old, and all I wanted was a car, a boyfriend and a bunch of cool friends to hang out with. I got cancer instead.

Within a month, chemotherapy treatments had come and my hair had gone. I had a tube in my arm and a small mountain of pills to take daily. Pain was a constant now; so was throwing up.
Through six months of chemotherapy and two-and-a-half weeks of radiation therapy, writing got me through the worst and helped me relive the best. I tried to write in my journal every day, scribbling down everything that happened. I wrote hundreds of e-mails to my aunt in Hawaii and kept other family members updated, too.

And all that writing paid off. I can look back on journal entries and laugh at how silly I was at times — and how much pain I have forgotten. But I can also look back at one of the happiest days of my life, the day of my final radiation treatment, which I punctuated in my journal with exclamation points and capital letters: 

“On January 23, 2004, I officially finished my radiation and won the battle with cancer. I’m done! I defeated the enemy! I can’t even explain how ecstatic I feel. I’m just so happy to be alive!”

It has been six years since I won my battle with cancer, and the memories of that time have begun to fade. I have forgotten some of my nurses’ names. I have forgotten some of my experiences with tests and scans and how I felt during chemotherapy. I have forgotten how it felt to take medicines daily and to be in constant pain.

But there are some things that I haven’t forgotten. I haven’t forgotten how lucky I am to be alive. I haven’t forgotten how much I value the relationships I have and the people that love me. I haven’t forgotten what cancer can really mean — conquering a disease and living to tell your story.
Someone once compared my appearance while receiving chemotherapy treatments to that of a death camp survivor. In a way, I have realized, that is what I am. I faced death, and I survived it, as have millions of others.

“You have Hodgkin’s Disease”: four words that changed my life forever. I got cancer instead of everything else I wanted at 16 — but I got a second chance to be more compassionate, more understanding and more grateful for the things I had. And that’s something I never would have gotten otherwise.


  1. Lindsay, I wish I could have been there to celebrate with you! Love the post and I'll be sharing it with a friend because it contains so much hope.

    Love ya, Jenny M

  2. Lindsay, you are truly an inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing your story. It is beautiful and so full of hope. You are amazing.

  3. Lindsay... you made tear up. What a wonderful story of courage and endurance. You're one special woman... The world is a better place because you're in it.


Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts! I love reading them.