health

What Christmas Means To A Girl Who Almost Lost Her Life

…. And what it should mean to you too.

I am a Christmas miracle.

During my surgery, the doctor called my parents and said, “If this is cancerous, I’ll have to close her up and send her home.” With a tumor the size of a cantaloupe, there would have been no hope for me – even with chemotherapy.

After being discharged from the hospital and driving back to Florida, I made the decision to stay put. I wasn’t mentally or physically able to fly back to Trinidad just yet.

We were lucky enough to find flights for the rest of my siblings to meet us three days before Christmas. And that is what counts the most.

It’s extremely different. It doesn’t feel like Christmas at all – or at least that’s what I thought.

I planned to build snowmen, put up a tree in my apartment and sing carols all November long to prepare myself for a great Christmas. We all know those plans went down very quickly. And my spirit had been shot after spending so much time in a hospital that only had one wreath hanging.

Usually, at home, I celebrate Christmas with all 100 family members on both sides of the family. There are red decorations, red food, and red everything in every corner.

BUT there’s a hustle and a bustle that I did not miss. Where and when did we lose the meaning of Christmas?

We’re always running around, starting mid-November, looking for gifts for this person and that person. We’re always lying on the floor, looking under the tree, and counting how many gifts have our names on it. Who cares?

That’s not what Christmas is about. Christmas is about being with your family, and most importantly being able to celebrate having your family with you. I’m so blessed to even see another Christmas.

Christmas is also about giving. Sure, we should give to those that we love, but what about the less fortunate? There are so many children that Santa never gets to. There are so many people that don’t even have bread on their tables while we make and eat unnecessary amounts of food.

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I kept crying about not being able to go home. I felt guilty and I wanted to be with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins more than anything else in the world. They’re my rock. But, there is good in just having my intermediate family here in Florida. We can really understand why Christmas is so important. What happened over the last few weeks should make our love for each other grow so much more and we can really learn to be grateful for having each other. This gives us time to reflect and build upon our experiences.

I am so happy to spend yet another Christmas with the most amazing people I could have ever asked God for.

Also, I finally got the experience of having a real Christmas tree. YAY!

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The Beginning of the End

When you’re the editor of an on-campus publication and you’re a full-time student taking 18 credits, you’d do almost anything for a break – just one second to breathe. Not me, Sir. 

I love the rush. I love the busy life. Most importantly, I love school.

And, illness took that away.

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My alarm rings. Obviously, I press snooze 15 times before I actually drag myself out of bed. I stuff my face with cereal, my Keurig brews Starbucks’ best, I grab it and I’m on my way to magazine editing.

It’s 9 a.m. on Nov. 12th – just a regular Tuesday morning, or so I thought.

It’s 11 o’clock. Class is over. I go to Health Services and complain about a persistent dry cough that has lasted for two to three weeks.

At midday, the PA sends me for an x-ray.

Within minutes of doing so, the radiologists rush me into another room for a CT scan. What is going on? I thought, hmmm, maybe I just have bronchitis? Pneumonia? But, that be too simple for my complicated life.

It’s 2:30 now. I anxiously sit in the waiting room.

At 3 p.m., I get a shuttle back to Health Services and my world turns upside down.

“Well, Teresa, you have a mass in your lung. It’s almost the size of a tennis ball. It could be benign; it could be malignant.”

What do you mean? I might have cancer? Right now? But, I’m only 20-years-old. PSH! Teresa, be real, cancer doesn’t give two shits about how old you are.

“Call your mom.” No. 

How is that even possible? How do you tell your parents the worst news you’ve ever heard in your entire life? How do you do that without breaking their hearts?

My life is a movie. Cool. 

“Mom…..”

The PA grabs the phone, explains it all, and mom’s off to book flights and organize doctors appointments.

“If your family doctors are in Florida, you need to be there by tonight. You need to have a biopsy done tomorrow.”

“No, actually, my magazine launches next week. I can’t leave. I have things to do.”

“It doesn’t matter. Your health always comes first”

I know it does, but I still respond, “It really doesn’t….”

There and then, I burst into tears. All I have ever known is work. I pull all nighters as if it’s my primary job, I go above and beyond in every project I do just to stand out, and I stress for no reason – but, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t know life without the hustle.

As the PA said, “It doesn’t matter,” right?  I’ll be off to Florida in the morning whether I like it or not.

I cry, I moan, I scream.

And I cry.

Where did that get me? Nowhere, really, but it’s a bit of an emotional relief.

I watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians for 3 hours, and cry a little more (you would think that their pathetic lives might have made me feel better about mine – that was not the case).

My head is all over the place. This, that, there, then, who, what, where, when, why – “why” really stuck though.

Why me? Why now? Why this? Why, God? WHY? 

My aunt gave me a quote that stuck with me:

“Sometimes when you wonder why you can’t hear God’s voice during your trials, remember the teacher is always quiet during the test.”

So, God is with me. At all times. I just have to believe that his presence and love will be enough to pull me through whatever I have ahead of me.