Before, during, and after my bone marrow transplant as a teenager, the experts at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center did not disguise some unpleasant truths. If I survived treatment for my cancer, the very treatment that cured me could kill me.
Due to luck and genetics, I didn’t have to worry about graft-vs-host disease which plagues many transplant survivors who receive donor marrow. But if I was fortunate enough to live long enough, I would be at high risk for other, perhaps more gruesome, cancers than my original cancer.
Since the age of 16, I have lived my life as best as I could while waiting for the other shoe to drop. That is, the shoe akin to a giant stinky boot sent to strike me down like a missile from a godless universe.
Has the Boot finally landed?
Apparently my twenty years of depression and anxiety were not enough to appease the Cancer gods. Fear and despair were the price exacted by my abusive family while I endured the first cancer. They were the ransom paid to the unwitting tyrants known as my parents.
Once that sum was paid, I found out I owed more: weaning myself off the excessive and unnecessary psychiatric drugs prescribed by physicians and working through the gastrointestinal distress and pelvic floor dysfunction caused by this wrongful treatment of medical and emotional trauma.
I was finally beginning to breathe. I was finally beginning to feel free. To feel that I had at last escaped from misery’s cold clutches, if only temporarily.
Health and happiness? Were they for me?
I sit and wait for the pathology report to say whether my flesh is malignant again, not with a familiar cancer, but with a decidedly new and different cancer, a kind of novelty I wish every transplant survivor would be spared.
Just as I was readying myself to sign my name on the firm line of Triumph, the story changes again.
I feel that I am the unwilling hero of a Choose Your Own Adventure Story.
Does Katherine live to old age? Turn to page 175.
Does Katherine obtain another cure after suffering some more? Turn to page 135.
Does Katherine get deformed and debilitated yet again in the name of survival? Turn to page 99.
Where is the End? And will this End be Final?
Or, Sad Poet of Survival, in my End will I find my Beginning?