My relationship with cancer, specifically leukemia, didn’t begin last month, as some might think. No… we go way back. You see, when I was 10 years old I descended the steps to my bedroom, to the sound of my sisters’ tears, and drew a tiny angel on my calendar. I had just found out my mom was going to die.
For the next five years, cancer was our constant companion. He visited in the dark of the night, repeatedly coming to me as a vampire in my dreams, holding my mother captive. During the day, he would show up when I least expected and whisper fears into my ear. “What will life be like without my mom?” “How much longer does she have?” His presence gouged and caressed me; stealing my innocence while gifting me with tools I’d use often in life.
When I was 15, cancer left my side as suddenly as he appeared. I said goodbye to leukemia when I said goodbye to my mom. I laid next to her in bed and watched her belly swelling with blood. Her labored breaths came further apart, until one last gasp told me it was over. I looked up at the ceiling and wondered if her spirit was looking down on me. At her funeral I told my dad I was no longer afraid of death. Watching my mom die had somehow created a peace inside me about my own mortality.
I thought leukemia was done with me and my family, and for 33 years he stayed away. Then, on October 4, 2015, after being rushed to the emergency room in an ambulance, I heard him whisper in my ear once more, “I’m back.”