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What I Learned From Surviving A Break Up and Chemotherapy-- Simultaneously

originally published online on Medium March 14, 2014


The word in itself is daunting. It’s a sort of therapy involving harsh chemicals that in any other occasion would be toxic for your body. While most of us know what it is and its purpose, not all of us can understand what kind of hardships it can place on an individual, their family, and their friends. In any case, it’s never a pleasant experience and while I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones, I truly do not wish it upon anyone else.

In my unique case, I did not undergo chemotherapy for cancer. When I was 21, I showed symptoms of stage 4 and 5 renal (kidney) disease as a product of my preexisting condition Systematic Lupus Erythematosus, or Lupus for short. I was diagnosed at the young age of 16 and have been learning to live with it since. A combination of my diminishing health and failing medications only meant one thing: chemotherapy was the only option.

5 months, once a month, 3 hour long sessions.

While I understand this isn’t the absolute worst of cases, life just had to throw me another damn curveball (as it always does) and long story short, the little cherry on top of it all was that days before my first session, I had just experienced a breakup with someone who was special to me. That, I’m sure, we all are a little more familiar with.

 I said this, he said that, life happened, and we were over.

I’m not going to go into detail about each experience separately, or what it felt like going through both of them at the same time — I could probably write a whole self-help book from that experience. Here, I simply wanted to share some life lessons that I learned that I believe can be applied any obstacle or challenge that life is presenting.

Negativity doesn’t bring the dead back to life.

However, neither does positivity. I know everyone has received the “positivity” speech about why it is the better path to choose and live by etc., but in all honesty, being negative about a shitty situation (especially at it’s peak) is real, logical and absolutely human. To ignore the intense gravity of a situation, and paint rainbows and butterflies on it is, in my opinion, simply being fake. Just like John Greene mentioned, “That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.” So feel it.

Experiencing negativity won’t heal anything right away, but the beautiful moment when you come into terms with pain and suffering instead of judging it are when you grow and learn the most. It is at that time that you can turn yourself around and take positive steps forward.

Being a good patient often equates to receiving better care.

Patients who are generally lovely to be around often receive better attention and care from health care professionals. It may sound discriminatory but it’s simple human nature. Doctors and nurses’ jobs can get dirty, and it doesn’t mean they will consistently treat each case with the same demeanor or will. I’m not saying that they will get to pick and choose who they feel like being more helpful to (they are still professionals) but think, if you were in their shoes, would you be more likely to enjoy helping the rude, unwilling lady or the negotiable, consenting man who always smiles and says thank you?

This is all about the golden rule and treating others the way you want to be treated. You attract the very like energy you put out just like in a patient-health care provider relationship. In any occasion, I’ve found that most people, friends and family specifically, want to help you, but don’t make yourself a bigger burden to them than you have to be. Help others help you.

Don’t get trapped in the control paradox.

Here’s this funny thing about life: the more you try to control the external world, the more out of control your life begins to feel. Here’s a bad example but lets say you really have to use the restroom. You hustle your way viciously only to find out that, oh hell no, it’s out of service. Is it just me or is it always in that very moment you feel like you just can’t hold it any longer? You may throw a little fit or what not, but it doesn’t remove the fact that you still need to use the restroom. You just have to accept that you cannot control the situation (or your body), and make an effort to try to control your perception of the situation. The more you accept what’s out there and let go of external factors, you can then choose to respond in ways you would admire yourself more for. This goes for any difficult challenge in life. Gaining an internal sense of control will ultimately result in living a life that does not allow you to feel victimized.

Music heals.

My mom, who is a nurse herself, told me of a patient who was having difficulty sleeping. He could not speak which left him unable to communicate with the nurses of his needs and him feeling completely frustrated. After they did everything they thought they could, my mom, the bright woman she is, told the other nurses to let him listen to music. Five minutes later, he was fast asleep.

I will always be a lover of music simply because it has this uncanny ability to belong to everyone, to connect people who would never have had anything in common in the first place. It can relate to you when you feel like no one else in the world can.

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” — Friedrich Nietzche

Patience, positivity and perseverance.

Whatever these three words mean to you, use them as tools in getting through any threat or challenge presented in life. Always attempt to seek opportunities for growth in places you think would be unlikely to exist because trust me, they are there and they do exist. Enjoyment of a challenge and gaining a sense of flow by creatively rising to an occasion can give you a great sense of hope and connectedness that will be the small differences in just living each day that passes or loving each day that is a gift.

ps I'm happy to report me and this person got back together and are celebrating 6 years together!

pps my new poetry book is set to launch winter 2019. Stay tuned!

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