Today is a very special milestone in the history of my humble little life. Today is the day, two years ago, that I received a new immune system. I realise now how strange and wonderful it is to celebrate such a thing and yet here we are. Two years ago I was tiptoeing along the precipice of death and today, here I am happy and healthy as a peach. Well, that’s not entirely true as I currently have COVID. But alas, if it weren’t for the stem cell transplant that helped to regenerate a stronger, more viral-resistant immune system, this experience would be markedly different. I think it’s quite common in life to not talk about our illnesses and traumas for so often they are too painful or overwhelming but I want to reject that tendency and lean towards an attitude of celebration and recognition of what I’ve been through and how far I’ve come.
I don’t really post blogs on this page much anymore, or anything for that matter, as life has been busy and I’ve been focusing my writing in other areas. But I also regularly have this inherent impulse to just come here and write, without filtering or judging, just journal my thoughts and reflections and put them out into the world, even if it’s just for me to see. Life is has been happening so much lately, passing by, as we edge towards two years of this pandemic, as we sit thick in the midst of this storm and try to navigate our way back towards some semblance of normality. Whatever that means? I’m astonished by the way in which the world is unfolding before my eyes, but this, to be frank, isn’t anything new. The world has been a strange and absurd place for as long as I can remember. And my life, has in fact only gotten better as the years go by. I think back to my reality two years ago and it’s hard to fathom how tough things truly were.
One of my most poignant memories of my illness was the day after my stem cell transplant. I was lying in a hospital bed, feeling the worst I have ever felt in my life. I remember I had chronic diarrhoea, chronic nausea, I couldn’t see straight because of how intense my migraine was, I couldn’t stomach anything other than liquids. My world had been virtually turned upside down with pain and it genuinely felt like it would never end. I remember looking up at the clock and watching the hands move so slowly, one minute felt like a year. I couldn’t fathom how the hell I was going to get through this. They say you only start to feel some semblance of normality on day 20+ post transplant and there I was fumbling for relief on day 1. How would I get through this I remember asking myself. How would I survive. But so it goes, I did. One foot in front of the other, one step forward and we carry on.
Now I’m here, 730 days later. I am here. I used to sit and ponder over the brutal question, “why me?” A painful, somewhat foolish thing to ask in the face of such overwhelming adversity. But now, in retrospect I feel I finally got my answer. It may not make much sense to anyone else, but I finally understand why me. Because I was chosen to understand the value of this existence. The significance of being alive. I am in awe of my life today. The fact that just two years ago it lay in ruins and today I have so many, if not all of the things I could of ever dreamed of. I am so loved and lucky and privileged and healthy and capable. Why me because… why not me? What a blessing to have this perspective, to go through life so wildly grateful to be here.
Now I wake up and try to remember not to say “I’ve got to”, but “I get to”. I get to be here, to be a participant in this beautiful dance, to document and witness the world. I have found in these past two years a love so special, so meaningful, so homely, it’s the exact kind of love I always hoped to feel and finally do. I have found work that fulfils me, a life that stimulates me. Mostly I’ve realised that nothing is permanent. We don’t have to choose one thing, one direction, one path, but instead can continually recreate ourselves as we go. We get to make up the rules, reinvent ourselves and our realities as we choose. Isn’t that marvellous?
I truly am grateful for the hardship I endured two years ago and all the years before it, not because it wasn’t scar inducing and incredibly tough, but because of the perspective of life I have now. I feel so acutely aware of the value of every day now, every moment even, how miraculous it is to be here and be witness to the world as it flows and twists and unfolds. There are miracles everywhere and it’s an honour to still be here to taste it. I guess I just wanted to celebrate that, to celebrate today, and to wish myself happy birthday.