There are multiple points in my life that I would consider “defining.”
This moment was one of them.
There were reasons that I delayed my final doctor checkups prior to boarding my impending flight to study abroad for almost a year. Although not very good reasons, there were reasons.
I rarely got sick and I just never considered going to the doctor for preventative care as a starving student’s priority. Silly me. Part of the prerequisites that the Study Abroad Office required (in addition to Visas, Passports, and shots) were these pesky doctors’ visits.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dread them, I just was too busy running on full steam to consider any (so I thought) unnecessary distractions.
In two weeks prior to takeoff, I squeezed in my mandatory doctors’ visits. I was pretty proud of myself getting all the checkmarks of preparedness knocked out. I was set to see the world and was unflappable.
I was on a momentous trajectory until my phone rang three days prior to take off.
“Hello, this is Nurse So and So from Dr. X’s office.”
“Yes?” I answered.
“You ran lab tests on your latest visit?” the nurse confirmed.
“Hmm?” I agreed.
“You need to come in as soon as possible, your lab cells are considered abnormal,” she coldly replied. There it was—the formal request.
“Um? I’m sorry that’s not happening, I leave out of the country in three days,” I said hurriedly.
“Ma’am, you have cancer.”
I hung up.
I told absolutely no one. Not one soul.
Why? I didn’t want anyone to worry about me.
I was in a dismal state for those three days where my meditation and comfort in my faith took over my mind and my heart to a place that I finally came to understand as inner peace. I had never known what it was like to stare at something with such magnifying precision until then.
I had never known a love of life such as I did then at that moment when I asked God, “Why me?”
I never got angry at Him but I stood resolutely in the comfort that He gave me one more day. In that gift, I could change everything, in how I chose to live, in the ways I could touch others’ lives and how to love life and everything about it.
I will never forget that day.
That day will live forever in my memory as the catalyst to live every single day to the utmost.
That day, the very worst day of my life, suddenly became the very best day of my life.
It changed my fabric.
It ingrained in me the ability to express gratitude for one more breath and one more memory to make. I did not take this new responsibility lightly, I took this as a serious mission to love my life and leave a legacy. If He needed to take me, I would not feel sorry for myself and I would imagine others would say “She relished every second she got to be alive.”
I left for almost a year with a renewed purpose to forge the best life imaginable.
It was the most sensational year spent, with memories even Hollywood couldn’t remake.
Fast forward to a return to the States almost a year later from the best year of my life to finally talk to the doctor. When I finally braved the phone call, I lost my breath but stood firmly in the challenge to face my fear. My fear was not the cancer, but telling the ones who loved me about it.
My voice quivered as I asked about going to see the doctor about um, my situation.
What came as a response will forever be known as my miracle.
“Ma’am, we have absolutely no record of anything suggesting abnormal results about your lab work. I’m sorry to say, but we may have had the wrong number?”
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Guyon Morée/Flickr