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I feel myself slipping. My eyes close. I’m finally numb to it all. I’m not asleep but I’m not awake. There’s nothing but darkness until I see this light. It’s in the distance. I start going towards it. It’s inviting. It’s warm. Somewhere in my conscious I know what’s happening…but I follow it. I want it. I am accepting. I just want it to be over.

I hear a voice. It’s my mother’s voice saying my name repeatedly, “Shelly”, “Shelly”, Shelly”. It is so strange. I know she is right next to me but her voice sounds so far away. I’m getting closer to the light or it is approaching me. I am too weak to do anything so I can’t imagine I can lift a finger in my coming-to-Jesus moment. I know I have a choice; stop fighting and just let go or come back and continue to face the cancer devil.

Then my loved ones’ faces pop into my head.

I chose the hard path. I chose pain and life. I fought my way back to the coldness of my hospital room and my reality with my mom still calling out “Shelly” as a guide. It felt as if I regretted my decision instantly almost as soon as I came around. I was no longer numb. Mere words cannot explain the pain one feels under these conditions. I woke up to worried faces and the nurses putting oxygen on me. This was just five days after my double cord blood transplant for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

That was two years ago. I just celebrated my second re-birth-day on July 31st of this year. I am so grateful to be alive. I’ve tasted death. I’ve survived cancer. There are so many obstacles I’ve had to overcome over the last few years and I am a stronger woman for it. These are accomplishments that I am proud of. I no longer have rose-tinted glasses on. My eyes are wide open and I see more clearly. I now know what’s important in life.

I often don’t know how to look at cancer. Was my leukemia a curse or a blessing? I’ve never felt more alive than I do now. I’m more true to myself. I have a voice and I want to be heard. The main thing I learned from my near-death experience is that life is too short. Carpe diem. “If only I could live, I would do things so differently.”

Now that I’ve been given a second chance at life, what am I going to do with it? I’ve decided that I won’t just survive. You will see me thrive. As Katy Perry sings in “I Will Rise…”

“My story can’t be written by no one other than me. I’m beyond the archetype. I won’t conform. No matter how you shake my core. My roots run deep. Oh ye of so little faith. Don’t doubt it. Victory is in my veins. I know it and I will not negotiate. I’ll fight it. I will transform. The fire’s at my feet once again. The vultures all start circling. They’re whispering, “You’re out of time.” But still, I rise. This is no mistake, no accident. When you think the final nail is in, think again. Don’t be surprised, I will still rise.”

No matter what is happening in your life, know that you can rise above it. We all have the power within us. Just two years ago, I considered letting leukemia win. I’ve had to fight so hard to get to where I am today and every single day is still such a struggle. I fight depression and panic attacks. I’m having issues with asthma and breathing trouble. My body has betrayed me in every way possible and I’ve slowly started building up my endurance so that one day it may possibly resemble the body I once had. I’ve already gone through menopause and will never be able to bear my own children. I’ve lost more than I could ever have imagined at such a young age.

But I’ve gained something amazing. A new beginning. Even though our plans may get blown to hell, we can start over at any point in our lives and start again. Don’t ever give up. Keep fighting and rise.

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