Old at 23?

Birthday cake with number 23, celebration party symbol cartoon vector Illustration isolated on a white background
Cancer can make even a 23-year-old feel like an octogenerian

 

Can a girl be old at 23? Really old and weak with the aches and pains normally associated with an octogenarian? Well, it happened to me. I was a carefree student studying in Washington DC with the usual get-up-and-go of a young person. Late nights at the library, long walks around the campus. It was a fantastic time in my life – full of promise of a bright future. I was dating a wonderful young man. In fact, he had moved from Ohio, where both of our families lived, to DC so we can date more easily. An engagement was imminent.

And then it all collapsed. I was in pain and feeling so utterly tired. The doctors were as puzzled as I was. But when the results came back, it became clear. I had the disease that people don’t even like to mention. Suddenly I went from a confident student to a vulnerable old lady with no intervening years to get used to it. I moved back to Ohio to be near my family and so did my fiancé.

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Would life be over at 23?

At times I couldn’t help wondering if my life would be over at 23. I was told that I needed a bone marrow transplant to survive and none of my siblings were a match. But one day while I was waiting in the doctor’s office to be seen for yet another exam, I got the news. Ezer Mizion had found 4 good matches. The one they chose lived in Israel and he agreed to donate with no hesitation. It was a rough journey but I was on the mend.

There is no way I can say thank you to my donor. We met 5 days before my wedding. We tried to express our gratitude – myself, my family and my soon-to-be husband- but we utterly failed. What words can possibly convey what we felt?!

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We’re married now. Where would we have been without Ezer Mizion?

The hardest thing was the loss of my youth. This was a time in my life that will never come back and I missed it.  But there are good parts, too. I understand people much better now.  I don’t get impatient because I know that each person has his own package, things that don’t show on the surface. I had been studying to become a nurse practitioner and, because of my experience, I have chosen the leukemia floor.

I would advise someone who is diagnosed to let your story be your story. It’s easy to compare your situation with those of others who may have a much poorer prognosis. Don’t let the fears that belong to their story take away your hope.

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