I was diagnosed with a rare leukemia at the ages of 15, 18, and 20. When I was first diagnosed, I had no idea what leukemia was or how it would change my life forever. That quickly changed after my first bone marrow aspiration, dose of chemo, and blood transfusion. My hair began to fall out, complications came up left, right, and center, and it seemed there was no end in sight after six months in the hospital.

Death was never an option

Relapse after relapse, I finally found an unrelated bone marrow donor who saved my life, whom I’ll never adequately be able to thank. Throughout all three adventures in the hospital there were times where the doctors didn’t think I would make it through the night, but for me, death was never an option.

“For me personally, I focused on the future... Not living was never an option.”

Even in the ICU, experiencing heart failure, hearing doctors tell my parents to get all my immediate family to the hospital as quickly as possible, I was more concerned about negotiating with my father about what kind of puppy he would finally let me get when I made it through — I chose a Chihuahua in case you were wondering, who became my constant companion. Cancer is not fun for anybody, especially when 10 important developmental years of your life have been completely consumed by living in hospitals, follow up appointments, tests, and residual side effects from treatment.

SEE ALSO: How Ontario has made dramatic progress in organ and tissue donation.

Two months before my five-year cancer-free anniversary, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 25.

“How are we going to beat this?”

Through all of this I never asked, “why me?” Instead I asked, “how are we going to beat this?” — “we” being the operative word, because it’s a team effort: friends, family, and amazing medical teams.

For me personally, I focused on the future. While toxic chemo was pumping through my veins, I was reading Twilight anticipating the movie. While my hair was falling out, I was dreaming of learning to surf and do yoga on the beach in Costa Rica. While being told I may not make it through the night, I was designing my dream apartment. Not living was never an option.

Life after cancer

I made it to Costa Rica for a summer by myself and even learned how to fire dance. I got my dream apartment, and although I’m still and always will be dealing with residual side effects, I’m alive and living each day — not because I have to, but because I’m lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to. The fight is exhausting but completely worth it, because life is a gift. I may not be at the same place my peers are in life, and I do have many down days, but I’m here and following my dreams, one day at a time.