I believe that things happen for a reason. This ideology was put to the test when I was diagnosed with cancer two months before my wedding. I was only 33 years old and didn’t feel sick so the news was a shock. Within weeks I was a new bride on chemo. Two years later, after eight months of chemotherapy, radiation and a failed bone marrow transplant using my own stem cells, I still had cancer. I often wondered and prayed to know what higher good, if any, my cancer ordeal meant to the cosmic universe. I didn’t blame God for my disease, but I often asked out loud, why, and for what purpose did I have cancer. Didn’t I deserve a miracle too?
The next option was to find donor bone marrow, but that was like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The best possible chance was among biologic siblings and my three brothers weren’t a match. Soon, a family secret revealed new hope. I had a sister. One thing stood in the way of finding her; my mother’s determination fueled by 38 years of fear and shame to conceal the truth.
Once knowing this, my doctors wrote urgent letters to court judges to unseal the adoption records. My sister’s identity was soon revealed. She lived only 5 miles away. Her adopted mother had died from cancer six months earlier. She always knew that she was adopted, but never felt compelled to search for her biologic family. Though we were two years apart and didn’t know one another we were eerily alike. “We’re twin souls,” she’d say. There remained a difference. She was not a marrow match for me. Though emotionally scarred and psychologically bruised at this news I was glad to be alive for whatever it meant. The value and purpose of my life were no longer clear to me. I felt lost. Then, something that my sister said would eventually change me. “I think I needed to be found and it’s because of you that I am,” she said. It seemed more like a metaphysical statement than a logical one at the time. Three years later, my brother’s infant son underwent a cranial operation and needed an emergency blood transfusion. His blood type was rare. My sister matched him. She saved his life. I still believe that things happen for a reason and so it was to be that my cancer was the catalyst that freed my mother from her suffering, reunited my sister to her family, and saved my nephew. But, while everyone else got their miracles answered, I still had cancer. It seemed unfair, until I remembered my sister’s words and realized that my miracle was a new found perspective. I believe that with or without cancer I must thrive. I believe that I must approach life with a free spirit and a fearless desire to have the best life imaginable. I can’t change the past, but I believe that I can live forward.
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