Life with Leukemia

Open letter to self

It’s been awhile since I provided a general update on my health. Many of you have inquired as to how I am feeling. The answer is, “great!” On July 15, I celebrated my 2 year “re”birthday! This was a day my doctors were not sure I would live long enough to see. Thankfully, I serve a God who is able to work miracles.

During my 2-year checkup, my doctors were impressed with how I’ve progressed. Neuropathy (damaged nerves due to strong chemotherapy/radiation treatment) that once wreaked havoc on my feet and prevented me from being able to walk for even short periods of time, has gradually withdrawn. I now only have it in my toes and I no longer have to take medication for the symptoms. My blood counts are great and there is still no sign of leukemia in my system. My liver and kidneys continue to function at normal levels with no issues. My lung capacity has improved. My digestive system has improved 100% and I no longer have to take digestive aids. (This is mainly due to an overhaul in my diet that I’ll share in a later post.) The only thing they are monitoring at this point is a small bit of graft versus host disease (GVHD) that has manifested as eczema on my skin (mainly my arms). It looks like patches the size of a quarter that are red and bumpy. Other than a terrible itch and rash-like consistency, they really don’t bother me. Also, I’ve been told that a little bit of GVHD is a good thing. I had to get all of my vaccinations again and I’m feeling like a true toddler. I can’t get any live vaccines until a bit later, but I’m well on my way! These last two years certainly haven’t been easy, but I’m so grateful to still be alive!

The other day someone asked me if there was something I would tell my former self, what would it be? I thought about it for awhile. I’ve learned so many lessons along the way and I’ve been able to meet so many amazing people throughout this journey. After pondering the question for awhile, I decided to sit down and write a letter to myself. If I were to go back to the beginning, this is what I wish I had known:

Welcome to one of life’s most challenging journeys. It will be extremely tough. You will be faced with every challenge imaginable – mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Things you never struggled with before will come at you like curveballs. Keep track of your small victories. You will need that momentum and energy as you progress from level to level. You will cry A LOT and you may not feel very strong sometimes. But remember, God’s strength is made perfect in your weakness. Your faith, friends and family will be the fuel you’ll need to survive this thing. Don’t get disappointed with a bad doctor’s report or low blood count numbers. You will have good days and bad days. Focus on your healing and not the sickness. Surround yourself with positive people and affirmations. The most important thing to remember is NEVER GIVE UP! It doesn’t matter how bad it looks or how tired of fighting you are. Don’t quit 5 minutes before your miracle is about to happen. Don’t get tricked into thinking it’s over for you. You have so much to live for if you will only keep fighting.  God may not do things how you expect them to be done, but that doesn’t mean He’s not working. This journey won’t be short. I can’t tell you how long it will last, but remember waiting time is not wasted time. The race is not given to the swift nor to the strong, but to the one who endures. People’s lives will be changed because of your testimony. God’s going to get the glory out of this. It may not seem like it now, but it will all be worth it in the end. You can do this. God’s got you. Just hold on.

There are defining moments in life where there is a distinct before and after. Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia was that defining moment for me. It’s hard to remember what my life was like before. For so many months I just wished for my old life back. Coming to the realization that my life would never be the same ushered me into accepting my life as Melanie 2.0. Although it’s much different than it was before, in so many ways it is much better. I can’t emphasize how grateful I am to still be alive to experience it. Accepting life as it is only happened after I surrendered. In order to move towards a better and brighter future, you have to let go of the past and be willing to step out into uncertainty. Sometimes that means going deeper out into the water. Other times that means doing something completely out of your comfort zone or experiencing something that doesn’t make logical sense. No matter what your defining moment is, let it change you for the better. My test has truly become my testimony. My mess has helped shape my mission. Cheers to the terrific two’s. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

MEL-STRONG

P.S. This post is dedicated to my dear friend Tahaira who is fighting brain cancer. #tahairatough Check out her blog by clicking HERE.

comment (12)

  1. Angela Touseull

    03 Aug 2015 - 10:00 am

    Melanie,
    You are truly an amazing woman and an inspiration for me. Thank you for sharing your journey!
    Angela

  2. Tamela Cash-Curry

    03 Aug 2015 - 10:35 am

    Mel, again you amaze me with the eloquent way that you share your Faith and incredible strength! I cannot tell you how inspired I am after reading one of your messages. I am disappointed with myself because I seem to have not done anything with the blessings that GOD has bestowed upon me. I am committing myself to surrendering to my purpose and to take more graceful steps into my Christ-life…fiercely, unafraid and grateful…thank you my beautiful, brave, Faithful friend! Love you in more ways than you know!

    • Mel-Strong

      10 Aug 2015 - 12:25 pm

      Love you Tam!

  3. Tahaira

    03 Aug 2015 - 12:04 pm

    Mel,
    This is so awesome! You have always displayed such grace on this journey… You have always displayed such grace period! You really are a model and an inspiration, as Melanie and Melanie 2.0. Thank you for dedicating this to me. Your letter is so powerful and brings me a MUCH needed motivation. I am SO happy for you and SO happy you are here! God is good and you and I both are truly blessed. I can’t wait to see Tahaira 2.0! Thank you again!

  4. Leonard Scott

    03 Aug 2015 - 12:56 pm

    Thanks for another inspiring, motivating, provocative message of encouragement. Your journey and testimony are both amazing. God is awesome. Can’t wait to read your book.

  5. John Weaver

    04 Aug 2015 - 3:40 am

    Once again, amazing post! Can’t wait for the book!!!

  6. Twin

    05 Aug 2015 - 12:38 am

    Wow! You’ve done it again! Not only do I concur with the other comments on this post, but I attest to how real God is with every word that you wrote! Kudos, my real life “shero”.
    Twin

  7. lavenia Dauss

    06 Aug 2015 - 10:24 pm

    Again I say, you are a true believer of Jesus word…..love ya’ …..Aunt Lou

  8. Rick Reifenberg

    08 Aug 2015 - 2:39 pm

    Melanie,

    Congratulations on your 2 year anniversary! This fall, God-willing, will be 5 years for me. I marvel at your constant positive attitude and faith. You continue to be an inspiration to others and a reminder to all of us to live each day to fullest, always with a grateful heart. I will continue to keep you in my prayers for many more “birthdays” to come!

    • Mel-Strong

      10 Aug 2015 - 12:24 pm

      Thank you and happy early birthday to you!

  9. Momma Sue

    10 Aug 2015 - 11:37 am

    Young lady you never cease to amaze me!
    Mel you’re a forerunner, there are many who will come behind you and be BLESSED because of your testimony, God knows who he can trust to give the testimony that he allows them to have, I truly believe that if more people would be open and transparent about their lives and share their testimonies, that more people would be blessed, encouraged.
    You’re such a power house of wisdom, wise beyond your years.
    I remember when the Lord called me to the ministry, he told me that all he wanted me to do was to give my testimonies and make sure that I keep him in them. Sometimes we may wonder why our life went a certain way, but it’s not until the Lord reveals to you that it really wasn’t about you but that it was for others that would need to hear how God brought you out and that he could do the same thing for them.
    We’re just chosen vessels, chosen for his GLORY!
    Continue to tell your story sweetie, it’s blessing people and I just happen to be one of them.

    I Love You,
    Momma Sue

    • Mel-Strong

      10 Aug 2015 - 12:22 pm

      Thank you so much for these kind words Momma Sue and thank you for all of your continued love and support!

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