My study abroad adventure was supposed to begin in Spring of 2017. Actually, if everything had gone the way it was supposed to I should be boarding a plane right now instead of writing this.
In October of 2016 I was enrolled in my first semester at U.S.A planning and preparing to make this long held dream of mine a reality. I put in scholarship applications, was accepted into my school of choice in Seoul, and spent my free time searching the internet for my plane ticket. However, just days after I was accepted into my program I received what was possibly the most shocking and upsetting news of my life: I had cancer. Not many days after that I was also informed that I was selected to receive a scholarship that would have fully funded my study abroad. I cried for hours knowing that I would have to decline this scholarship, and give up the best opportunity and academic achievement so far in my life.
My diagnosis was far from simple. I have a rare blood cancer that my doctor had a hard time staging. After several painful tests he put me on file as a stage 4A. “As a precautionary measure, since we really aren’t sure,” he told me. No 21 year old wants to hear they have stage 4 cancer, even if its “just on paper.”
At that point I knew, in my head, that I would be a patient for the rest of my life. I felt like cancer would always define me. Cancer is just one of those things that no matter how far behind you it is, it sticks with you forever socially. When people think of you, their first thought is of your illness. That alone made me feel far sicker than chemo could.
Despite all the negative, I was given a very good prognosis. My disease has one of the highest cure rates among cancers-over 80%. Given that I was young, female, otherwise healthy, and had absolutely no symptoms of my cancer I was told my chances were probably even higher. The only downside to having a curable cancer though is the intense chemotherapy I had to receive. After just one treatment, my immune system was completely wiped out. I was forced to leave school and my job to be in isolation due to my extremely high risk of infection and illness. If I died it wouldn’t be because of the cancer, it would be because my body couldn’t even fight off a common cold.
Now that I have reached my 6th treatment, I see how well my youth and good health is really working in my favor. My side effects have been minimal, and my confidence in quickly ending this nightmare chapter of my life is high. I feel like cancer hasn’t necessarily been a detour on my study abroad journey, but rather a figurative flat tire I encountered along the way. Fall 2017 is my new arrival time. A little delayed, but I know I only will appreciate it more when I get there.