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Leukemia. It is a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow characterized by an abnormal increase of white blood cells. That is what the doctors had told me in the hospital in what seemed like ages ago. My definition was a little different. Leukemia. It is a disease that, in my case, forces you to undergo chemo-which doesn’t seem to do anything but cause you to feel like crap and lose all of your hair-and it all adds up to people looking at you differently. Leukemia is a disease that causes loss of life as you know it, but you also gain an entirely new perspective.
It had been one year, 2 months, and 13 days since that day I was diagnosed. I remember it started with a lump on the right side of my stomach. It was small at first, and I was a klutz, so I just assumed it was from some forgotten fall. But as time progressed, I stopped eating and the lump continued to grow. I was tired all of the time. I felt too weak to do simple, everyday tasks such as walk to school, and eventually even brushing my teeth became a hardship. It was when I got a fever that I finally mentioned it to my mom.
I remember telling the doctor at the clinic what had been going on. I remember her taking a simple blood test. I remember the uneasy look on her face when she told us I was being transferred to the hospital for further testing. I remember the doctor telling me my options: “Under the circumstances we estimate that you only have another year-at most-left to live.” I remember not understanding why it had to be me. I remember everything.
For months I listened to my mom sobbing in the kitchen, my dad trying to feed her words of comfort. My dad had tried to act as if it was all going to be okay. I thought that he had accepted it, but a little over three months in, I recall walking out to the kitchen sometime around 2:30am. I couldn’t sleep and I was tired of staring at the ceiling in my bedroom. The moon was still high in the sky, but her appearance was muffled by dark, wispy clouds moving quickly across her face, threatening to permanently engulf her. I saw my dad sitting at the table, his chair faced towards the picture window viewing the front yard. I tip-toed hesitantly towards the table. I pulled out the chair, causing it to scrape loudly against the oak wood floor, but my dad didn’t turn around to look. My dad didn’t move or make the slightest sound. When I started to wonder if he was asleep, he timidly turned his body towards me.
“Lucinda,” he sighed, “I’m so sorry.” I saw a tear slip from his eye and crawl indolently down his cheek. I knew he was talking about my cancer. That is all anybody has seemed to be able to talk to me about.
I shuffled over and hugged him. “Dad...” but that is all I could say. I never told anybody that it was going to be okay because that wasn’t up to me. I couldn’t guarantee that I would survive. I couldn’t tell a lie.
I had a 6 year old brother, Landon, who couldn’t comprehend what was going on. To him, my thinning hair was just a new trend I was trying out. My parents had tried to explain as best as they could, but it never seemed to get anywhere.
There was one day when Landon walked into my room while I was having troubles breathing. “Lucy, are you okay?” he had asked. I didn’t know what to say to him. He was so innocent and clueless. I was at a loss of words. I couldn’t help but breakdown and cry. “it’s okay Lucy, I’m here,” he pulled me into the tightest hug his small arms could manage, but that only made me cry even harder.
I did everything with Landon. We got ice cream on a weekly basis, went tot he park, played with his trucks, and best of all? We spent hours on end at the city pool. It was a standard pool. It didn’t have anything impressive. There was a diving board in the deep end and towards the five foot area there was a generic slide. But during the summer we practically lived there.
While Landon was spending time with his friends I always spent my alone time underwater. Something about the water was enthralling. That feeling of slicing through the barrier into its aqua expanse made me feel powerful. The chlorine stung my opened eyes, but it was always worth it. Everything moved lethargically, looking beautiful and pure. The sun seeped through the waters surface, bending the light in odd directions, causing captivating effects. The bubbles from my nose tickled my face as gravity was pulling it up back to the air. Every movement was hypnotizing, every moment mesmerizing. Each time I jumped into the water my worries remained on the surface. I brought nothing but my soul down with me, but when I finally lost my breath-when I had nothing to do but swim back up to reality-I had to take back all of that fear and melancholy. I had to take back my leukemia.
They say you know when death puts you next on his list. You can feel the end coming. It was late August. I was fragile, weak. My muscles and entire appearance had wasted away. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I could hardly recognize myself. I spent most of my days sleeping because I didn’t have the energy to do anything else. As hard as I tried I couldn’t eat either. When it all began, I was living month by moth, day by day, but you know its almost over when you begin living minute by minute. You just know.
I had spent those last weeks with my family, just as I had spent that last year. I let everybody know how much I loved them on a regular basis. I did all of their favorite things with them. I went to history museums with my dad, I shopped and scrap booked with my mom, and Landon and I got ice cream every night.
“What do you want to do?” my parents had kept asking me, but I told them that I had already done everything I cared about. Just being with them made me as content as I had ever been.
I had laid in bed for three days straight. I didn’t have the strength to get out but, that last August night, I waited until everybody was asleep. The moon was shining high in the sky. I summoned all of my strength and got up. I snuck through the house and out the front door. I was barefoot and in my pajamas, but I didn’t care. I made my way two blocks down to my favorite place. I slipped through a loose part of the fence and stared down at the swimming pool.
It looked even more alluring at night. It held a mysterious, almost eerie appearance, but that couldn’t stop me. I walked over to the twelve foot area, I studied the pool one last time and then I jumped in. The waters were frigid. It made me feel so alive. I looked up at the distorted image of the night sky. The moon smiled down at me. My nose stopped emitting bubbles. My lungs felt tight, but my body was at peace. I couldn't find the strength to swim back up to the surface. I could feel my mind floating into a bright nothingness. My leukemia was somewhere on the surface, and my body had sunk to the bottom, but I was leaving it all behind for a land where I could stay underwater forever.