Thoughts of a Victim
Many nights, I had dreams that a demon was chasing me; trying to rip me apart. I would never escape but I would wake up right before he tore me in half. Panting and gasping for air, I would sit up in my bed drenched in sweat. I would see the demon sitting in the corner. His distorted face starring back at mine. I would blink and he would disappear. My dreams seemed so realistic but I knew my imagination was feeding on what I was facing. On January 12, 2009, I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.
I was a child. I was a daughter. I was a sister. Most of all I was a victim. After undergoing five days of chemotherapy treatment, the effects of the drugs were visible. I looked defeated. My once long dark hair was becoming wiry and thin. I was afraid to comb it because the strands would easily fall out so I left the frazzled tresses unkempt. Dark circles formed under my eyes. The skin on my arms became blotchy and discolored.
During my chemotherapy sessions, tubes were inserted in my arms, chest, and stomach. A patchwork of plastic and needles covered my skin. The constant flow of unknown medications and acids pouring into my chest reminded me that I was sick. As the drugs seeped into my bloodstream, I slipped into a despairing state. I imagined being someplace else. Anywhere else but here. I imagined being at the park. I imagined the wind blowing through my hair. I imagined the sun beaming on my face. I imagined the birds wildly dancing through the trees. I imagined the smell of spring. I imagined green grass dotted with yellow daisies. I imagined playing with a puppy. I imagined the nurse walking in and ripping the needles out of my arm. I imagined I was someone else. After what seemed like an eternity, the machine beeped signaling that my treatment was complete. My dreamlike state was interrupted and I returned to the room.
After I was diagnosed, my grandmother became my best friend. Every day she had a new bible verse, some proverb, or other words of wisdom. The most inspirational scripture she gave me was 2 Corinthians 12: 10: “For Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” These words revitalized my spirit and rescued me from a state of depression. My grandmother had helped me select the treatment that I would undergo. She had lost two sisters and her mother to cancer. She was determined not to lose me.
We chose chemotherapy because the doctors advised it would be the most effective. However, my disease was reluctant at first. I was frequented with crimson colored urinations, stomach pains and mouth sores that made eating impossible. The pain sent tremors throughout my body. I shook with pain. Everything hurt. Many nights I stayed awake as tears streamed down my cheeks. When my sobbing became too loud, I would bite my lip and clench my teeth until I tasted blood. The pain numbed the hurt that I felt on the inside.
On the nights that I would stay awake, I would peep out of my room and see my grandmother sitting at the dining room table. A small light fixture hung over the table and illuminated her face. With her bifocals slid to the end of her nose, she examined the stack of OVERDUE NOTICES and medical bills. Her thin hair was frazzled and turning gray. She opened each envelope and meticulously scrutinized its contents. Upon reading four or five, she would rest her elbows on the table and allow her face to collapse into her hands. After quietly sobbing for a few seconds, she would instantaneously snap back into her reading. It was almost as if she knew I was watching and she did not want me to see her cry. So, I never bothered her when she sat at the table. The medical coverage had paid for eighty percent of the cost. The remaining percentage was paid from our own resources. This left my family in tremendous debt. I felt like a burden. My grandmother would always reassure me that I was not. Miraculously, she concealed her worry well and always managed to find a way to pay all of my expenses.
Since November 2009, I have been in remission. Cancer divided my life into two segments: life before cancer and life after cancer. After the incident that I experienced, life became different. It was like pressing the “RESTART” button on a computer. “Bleep, bleep,” the machine blacked out only to return to an illuminated state with remnants of previous usage still lingering. I was a completely new person after the incident. My life was beginning again. I was cautious. I was timid. I was afraid but I was not fearful of the past. I was afraid of what I had become.
The disease had ravaged my life. I had accepted the label of being a victim. I had accepted vulnerability, weakness, and fragility. Today, I am none of those things. I am none of those labels. Today I exist, halfway between victim and survivor; somewhere between life and death.