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Published: 17-12-2019

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Illness Narrative

Phoebe grew up dancing for countless of hours at her local dance studio, a spot she named her second home. Any individual watching her could see how passionate she was about moving and expressing her feelings through graceful choreography. It was at this extremely studio on a day in the middle of March 2017 while she had been teaching the subsequent generation of dancers that she became totally conscious of how persistently exhausted she was and how alarmingly swiftly her appetite had decreased the past couple days. Following a blood test and a really urgent get in touch with from her doctor to get to the hospital instantly, Phoebe was cast away in an ambulance to be diagnosed with the uncommon Philadelphia chromosome-constructive acute myeloid leukemia.

In the beginning of my dance career, I admired Phoebe for her readiness to accept the physical and mental challenge of competing several solo dances every single competitors season. I remember seeing her cry due to frustration and muscle pain in the middle of her daily four hour rehearsal sessions, asking yourself how she could still choose herself up and make her movements so fluid, the pain masked by her seamless effortlessness and grace. Ultimately, when I grew older, I had the honor to be trained by her, my dance inspiration. She sooner or later became my inspiration beyond dance. Seeing her balance teaching, becoming portion of a college dance group, commuting, and taking care of her loved ones, she became a sturdy figure in my life. It was crushing to see the hard Phoebe I knew crumble below the malignant, abnormal development of white blood cells that is leukemia. The leukemia Phoebe was diagnosed with was a unique case. In the history of cancer, the study of the chronic version of this leukemia allowed for the discovery that exclusive, distinct mutations existed in distinct types of cancer. The discovery and foundation of the leukemia she had, as stated by Siddhartha Mukherjee in his novel The Emperor of All Maladies was due to a “genetic occasion termed a translocation—the flip-flop transposition of two pieces of chromosome” (2011, p. 366). This brought on Phoebe’s bone marrow blood cells to multiply uncontrollably, disrupting her blood count. Thus, it was decided that the hospital needed to locate her a bone marrow donor and in the meanwhile she would have to undergo chemotherapy intravenously to destroy her leukemia cells and preserve it inside boundaries.

Phoebe outwardly took in her diagnosis and therapy with the grace and strength she had always presented herself with. Her fearlessness throughout her journey permitted me at times to blindly and joyously consider about and discuss with her the adventures we have been going to have when she was out of City of Hope Hospital, when her leukemia would be in remission. Nevertheless, Phoebe’s journey with battling leukemia was not an upward linear progression as my naivety allowed me to hope for and think in. Her journey of living with an illness consisted of higher jumps with hard landings, falls out of pirouettes when we believed she was going to stick the landing, and sashays that travelled her back and forth from the edges of well being to the depths of sickness.

The very first round of chemotherapy created her nauseous and her legs and hands swelled up after hours of lying in bed, as she was unable to stroll about with no feeling the need to have to throw up. There were instances Phoebe would decline my family’s visits due to her throbbing headaches that had been a result of oxygen deprivation caused by the therapy. Chemotherapy affected her bone marrow’s ability to create a adequate supply of blood cells as a result, as Mukherjee reveals occurs in leukemia individuals, her “red cell count had dipped so low that her blood was unable to carry its full supply of oxygen” (2011, p. 18). The second round of chemotherapy produced her lovely, black, long hair fall which was also due to the chemotherapy which targets leukemia cells but interferes with other quick-developing cells like those in the hair. When I saw her, I could not aid but feel my heart drop as I recalled how just a couple weeks ago we had been discussing how her extended hair that curled perfectly was her favored asset, and how she was planning to dye it blonde again. But Phoebe did not seem devastated by the loss of her hair. She exclaimed that she was going to shave it to rock a new look.

I could see that Phoebe had adjusted to disregard the things that no longer held as significantly weight in value, focusing on the most crucial issues that mattered to her just as professor of neurology, Oliver Sacks, did when he was diagnosed with ocular melanoma, which he reveals in his report “My Personal Life” when he says, “[he felt] a sudden clear concentrate and point of view. There [was] no time for anything inessential” (2015). There was no doubt that Phoebe struggled with obtaining what mattered to her and how to plan her life around the illness that had brought on her to quit in her tracks of living life very abruptly. She began to reconstruct her life by generating a couple of telephone calls to her college. It was decided that she would return to her research in a year when hopefully, the malignant growth of cells in her blood would be successfully stopped.

There was a darker side to Phoebe’s illness experience. Phoebe struggled just as Paul Kalanithi explained in his novel When Breath Becomes Air, he “struggled, even though facing [his] own death, to rebuild [his] old life—or perhaps locate a new one” (2016, p. 139). Recognizing that she would not be in a position to give into the physical demands of dance as her body fought to stay alive, she informed her college dance group that she would no longer be part of the group. Even more heartbreaking was when she asked the director to inform her students, the ones she had been coaching considering that they had been toddlers, that she would no longer be teaching them. With these choices, Phoebe usually battled with the identical questions Kalanithi pondered upon, “who would I be, going forward, and for how extended? …Who could, or must, I be?” (2016, p. 147). Following weeks of restlessness although being stuck in the hospital, Phoebe settled with the notion of possibly finding a job where she would be allowed to perform from house, which her physician promised to permit her to return to for longer than a handful of weeks soon after her blood count reached a typical amount following the third round of chemotherapy.

Towards the end of the summer of 2017, her blood count numbers finally did reach regular standards and a relieved Phoebe moved back house, only returning to City of Hope for routine checkups to make positive the leukemia cells have been not spreading. Phoebe planned a little gathering to celebrate with her dearest friends and loved ones members. I distinctly bear in mind Phoebe dressed in black, wearing a surgical face mask from the hospital to stop from contracting infections, and having to screen the food that was becoming served to make positive it match the diet program regulations her oncologist gave her. Throughout the celebration, Phoebe announced that the medical doctors at last, had identified her a bone marrow match and she would soon begin to have bone marrow transplants. This was a single of the high jumps of Phoebe’s journey.

It was swiftly followed by a hard fall. Phoebe underwent four bone marrow transplants, and each and every was rejected by her body. Her physique deteriorated swiftly following each and every failed transplant and she was transferred to the ICU to be put on life help. Rather of informing us of her downfall and nearing death, Phoebe sent each of my family members a letter that spoke of the subsequent joyful reunion we would have with her. Phoebe wanted us to nonetheless feel the hope of her getting by means of and surviving the battle with leukemia. She wanted us to continue feeling the joy that she had lost as she was informed once again and again that the transplants failed.

Phoebe died on January 7, 2018, the day before my initial day of college. In the letter she wrote to me, she asked for me to guarantee I would swipe her into the dining hall. Why did she promise us the creation of future memories with her if she knew she was running out of time? Every single word that she had written served a goal, and I wonder what went by means of her thoughts that prompted her to preserve our hopes alive as hers died. I believe she pondered upon the exact same query Kalanithi repeatedly asked himself, “the query of what tends to make human life meaningful, even in the face of death” (2016, p. 42). I realized that possibly she found the last days of her life meaningful by instilling a hope in her loved ones that she would live and that we would see her again to form a lot more memories with her. Probably that was the only point she could do or perhaps that’s all she wanted to do for the ones dearest to her: say the words that would ease our hearts and discomfort to permit us to envision what could be. I consider it was brave and noble of her to do this for us regardless of her losing hope for herself. She wanted to leave this globe silently, living in the minds of the those who loved her, and in the memories we had been imagining would occur, the ones she promised us, the ones she told us she was seeking forward to. In her last days of life, she chose to instill joy and to leave a trail of hope.
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