A Light at the Tunnel... How Dreams guide my Cancer Journey
Three months before I turned 18, I learned that I was sick with acute myeloid leukemia. As you can imagine, it was, lightly put, a huge shock. Before I could even comprehend the fact that I had cancer, days spent studying with friends and enjoying the last moments of high school abruptly turned into days spent at the hospital. I was bedridden, feeling nauseous and feverish. My daily schedules, once filled with classes and after school sport practices, were swiftly replaced by doctor visits, blood tests, CT scans, and X-ray appointments.
Overwhelmed by the urgency and immediate danger of my illness, I quickly dismissed my plans for my future, and focused on getting cured. And so, I devoted my mind and body to healing. For days on end, from morning to night, I persevered through the dreadful side effects of medication. Time passed as agonizing as ever, and every movement felt like I was dragging my body through tar. Looking back now, I am unsure how I endured the pain. (Perhaps it was the aid of strong painkillers that eased my discomfort haha. Or perhaps it was my newfound ability to sleep sixteen hours a day!) Nevertheless, I endured.
Even as I get used to my new life, I found myself spending hours lying in bed, absorbed in my thoughts (What, you think I’m exaggerating? Nopeee. Indeed, it is possible to lie in bed for many, many hours). The question “what does my future hold?” plagued my mind frequently. Some time ago, I had dreamed that after graduating from high school, I could travel the world while attending college. Specifically, I had applied for the World Bachelor’s in Business program, which would allow me to live in a new city every year (Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Milan) while studying global business. How excited I was for such a rare opportunity! Now, I assumed that my dreams were no longer reasonable. Being able to go home for a short break from the hospital already seemed like the greatest gift, and I was inclined to believe that I would be staying in Hong Kong for the next few years to tend to my illness and recover.
Weeks into my treatment, I received the news that I had been accepted into the program. My buried ambitions resurfaced. I was struck with the thought that, perhaps my dreams weren’t out of the question. Thus, I began my pursuit to actualize my dreams. I consulted my doctors about the prospect of attending college and travelling. Although no answer was absolute, I was ignited with hope. I started looking at the future again. My motivation grew exponentially, and I sought out ways to help my body heal and recover. The strength of my determination could even match my dedication to binge-watch k-dramas late into the night. I began to practice meditation, hoping to reduce my stress while boosting my imagination and patience. I worked hard with my physiotherapist and psychologist to take care of my body and mind. CCF also reached out and provided a community for my family and I, connecting us with inspiring cancer survivors that built us a strong emotional support system. Many of the sharings of CCF staff gave us comfort.
I finished my chemo treatment 6 months after I was first diagnosed. I am so grateful for the support I have received throughout my cancer journey. There were many medical complications along the way, constantly delaying my plans and challenging me. There were even days when I wanted to give up. Despite this, my dreams pushed me forward – like a light at the end of the tunnel. In the end, I accepted my offer to the program, and am planning to attend in the fall of 2022 – albeit a year delayed. But, as Walt Disney once stated, “all dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”