We hadn’t met before last year. I mean sure, you had visited a few distant relatives of mine, but I hadn’t really come face to face with you. It’s weird. I think I always knew I’d meet you one day. When my grandmother passed away, I now know it was your voice in the back of my mind telling me I should keep her neck scarves. Back then I didn’t know why I needed them. I used to have vivid dreams of meeting you and from the very first moment we eventually met on the day of my diagnosis, I have wanted to punch you square in your snarky little face. And at last, I have.
You stole a lot from me. You snuck up on me and quietly laid your bags where you damn-well pleased without thinking about whose home you destroyed in the process. You quickly bled into my life and into the lives of those who love me. You bled into my future, my hopes and my dreams and you held my independence hostage. No mother should ever have to stand guard as her twenty-something daughter has a shower, or help her wash herself. But my mother did. You stole my naivety, and since I met you, there hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought of you.
Learning about you, or most of the time obsessing over you, empowered me. I studied your game plan. I got to know you probably better than you know yourself. I rudely introduced you to the assassins I had employed to dismember you, and they did just that. We snuck up on you and evicted you without notice and when you asked me how I could do such a thing I turned that question back onto you. How could you do such a thing? How could you make me face my own mortality while I was still so young? How could you make my family cry when they thought I couldn’t see them? How could you bear to look my best friend in her eyes when she had to drag me, bare-faced and bald, to chemo appointments? How could you?
You are rough, but I am tough and now the joke’s on you.
You have given me far more than you have ever taken from me. You have given me patience. In the moments where I cried to a young registrar who couldn’t give me the answers I so desperately needed, and in the moments where I struggled to grasp onto life after chemo. You have taught me to adjust. In the moments where I was told I couldn’t play my favorite sport for a while, and in the moments where I couldn’t lift my head off my pillow for days on end. You have shown me how resilient I am. In the moments you kept taking from me without ever giving back, and in the moments where I sat in that cold, blue recliner chair getting pumped full of poison. All 38 times and I managed to walk myself in and out. Every. Single. Damn. Time. You gave me a voice. In the moments I use my platform to raise awareness of your God-forsaken existence, and in the moments I sit being interviewed for national magazines.
They didn’t tell you I am a fighter.
They didn’t provide you with a full brief before you made my body your home so when we eventually met, you truly had no idea who you were messing with. I can’t blame you for trying. They didn’t tell you I wouldn’t bat an eyelid when you shook me to my core. They didn’t tell you I would sit up until all hours of the night researching and obsessing over different ways to kick your ass. They didn’t tell you I wasn’t going to lay down and give up while you spread like wildfire in the dark of the night.
They didn’t tell you what I was capable of.
They didn’t tell you that the tears my loved ones cried would only nourish the beast in me and propel her further. They didn’t tell you that when you sensed you were losing and you handed me a shower of blood clots across both my lungs, my body would fight hard to protect me. They didn’t tell you that I would move every mountain if it meant you didn’t get to win the war you waged.
You were hard, but they didn’t tell you I could do hard things.
Now you have fled but I am still here, a shell of who I was before we met. I thought a boy with brown hair would be the only one to break my heart, but you showed me. I swore black and blue that you weren’t going to break me, but you did. You absolutely shattered me. You broke me into more pieces than I ever imagined existed, but from every crack, a new me grew.
I flourished in my battle with you.