July 15, 2020
Waking up in the morning and not knowing how I was going to feel has become common over the past 14 months. I have been receiving treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer since last June so part of the daily routine has been waking up and assessing how I feel and what is needed to do to take care of myself that day.
This week was different. I was about to start a new round of chemo for a stem cell transplant. This has been talked about and anticipated since March. Throughout this process, whenever I was about to start a new treatment (going from chemo, to radiation, to stem cell collection) or anything that I hadn’t experienced before, I would feel very anxious and nervous, and my mind would race the day before and of the new treatment. Usually, once we started and I got into the process, those feelings would subside and I was able to focus on the old mantra, “one day at a time,” and lock into the task.
So this week I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel waking up on the first day of the stem cell transplant process. Six straight days of chemo followed by the stem cell injection sounded daunting and intense. However, I woke up at 7am and popped right up. I’m not normally a morning person. If I could sleep until 10 am every day, I’d be very happy. On this day, I was wide-awake at 7 am and I felt a sense of motivation. I looked at the walls of my hotel room where I hung up all of the cards and pictures that friends and family sent me, as well as texts and phone calls of prayers and encouragement. I felt a drive that I wasn’t expecting. I’m a naturally competitive person and over this process, my brain seems to have turned all of my competitive energy inward to fight the cancer in my body. I felt a drive and intensity that was so strong that it replaced any anxiousness or trepidation that I was expecting. As I walked to the hospital for the first treatment, I felt like I was walking into battle to whoop ass with an army of millions right beside me. I was so fired up I felt like running down 74th Street to the hospital! It was an amazing, emotional feeling. I could feel the support of my family and friends pushing me forward and I had a weightlessness to my body, as if a force of positivity and strength was carrying me. As I type these words, I am getting choked up remembering the experience. The generosity and compassion I’ve received from so many people through this process has been such a boost to my spirit, my energy, and my outlook. I feel so lucky to have that love and support in my life. If there was any doubt before, this experience is proof that all of the support and prayers work!
I’ve learned many lessons throughout this battle with cancer, along with other life-changing events that happened during my treatment including the Covid pandemic and racial justice protests. These events have changed my perspective on life. One of the lessons I’ve learned and want to share is that just because it’ll be a tough day, doesn’t mean it has to be a bad day. The first day of this treatment was a great example of that. This process is difficult and the treatment is not pleasant. There are many tough days that I’ve had and more to come. However, I’ll always remember that first day of this treatment not as a bad day, but a good day. It was an inspirational day. I have the greatest friends and most loving family right next to me and with that love, together we can conquer whatever adversity we are tested with. I’m constantly reminded that I’m not alone and I can’t stress enough how important that reminder has been to me through this past year.
Tomorrow I will wake up and do my daily assessment. How do I feel today? And I’ll do what I need to in order to take the next step to winning this battle. I’ll remember a message a good friend told me: every day is another step closer to the end of this process.
Every day is a new opportunity for a good day, no matter how difficult it may seem to be. Thank you to my friends and family. I love you!
By Chris Kopas