When we first met, I never expected things to turn out the way they did. I didn’t expect you to be my first love. I didn’t expect you to be my first loss.
When you texted me in 2014, on New Year’s Day, to say that you couldn’t get out of bed, I initially assumed you were exhausted or depressed. I was at dinner with my parents and you had just woken up. No, you explained, you couldn’t move your legs or feel your toes. I had to urge you to call for an ambulance.
When your dad texted me later that night to say that you had an emergency MRI, that the doctors had found a tumor on your spinal column, and that you were being transferred for emergency surgery, I distinctly remember wondering if it was real. Was I dreaming? This is the kind of stuff that only happens in movies. We were only 21. You couldn’t have cancer.
You did, in fact, have cancer. It took a few weeks for the biopsy results, but then we had an answer: Ewing’s Sarcoma. I Googled Ewing’s Sarcoma, and it did not sound good.
Children get Ewing’s Sarcoma; rarely, young adults do. You were right at the cutoff for the older range. Most children who survived did so due to the cells spreading in extremities which could be amputated. Survival rates are lower for patients with tumors in the torso.
I remember you inviting me to have a serious talk with you at the hospital. Your mom was there with you for support as we all cried. You asked me if I wanted to break up with you.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
Over the next two years, you were amazing. You relearned to walk. You loved encouraging the smaller kids during physical therapy in the pediatric ward. You went through so many different types of chemotherapy, radiation, and other ungodly treatments and yet remained so hopeful.
You kept writing and singing, despite chemotherapy shredding the skin inside of your mouth, and the tumors in your lungs, which appeared like beautiful flowers on your scans.
You sometimes vented about people who asked if you would try a juice cleanse or proselytize their religion and other well-meaning but misguided suggestions.
We continued to dream of the future; we would have a home together and you would be a stay-at-home…