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Imagine being 21 and attending one of the most well-known public universities in the United States. You are studying something you love, having a blast with your girlfriends, and always on the lookout for a potential suitor. You’ve lost some weight and feel really great about yourself. You’re four months away from graduating (a semester early!) and starting your life.

Your future is at your fingertips.

And then you get slapped with your mortality and it feels like your world is crashing around you.

You have cancer.

You know what? Sometimes the chemo, the vomiting, passing out, and the ever-present thoughts of death wasn’t the worst part.

Sometimes, the worst part was sitting on your parents couch at twenty-one, wishing you were going out to that amazing party with all of your friends. Or watching your hair fall out in chunks in the shower. Your beautiful, personality-defining red hair just washing away down the drain. Or realizing part of your soul died when you asked your dad to shave your head because you just couldn’t watch the slow process of it falling out any longer.

Sometimes the worst part was looking at yourself in the mirror and just watching the tears stream down your face as you realized that this is your new reality. You are a twenty-one year old woman and you are bald.

Maybe the worst part was the steroids. Good God those things are evil. In a matter of weeks you transformed from that trim, vibrant woman that you were so proud of, into a bloated, chemotherapy-ridden sick person. You have that look of cancer and it crushes you.

And then there were those few moments where you felt good. You put on nice clothes, brush out your fabulous black wig and get ready for a night of normalcy. The drinks start to kick in, you start talking to a handsome guy. One thing leads to another, he leans in to kiss you and goes to put his hand on the back of your head…. and you freeze. Because you know the second he touches you he’s going to feel your wig. Your cover is blown, you are not one of the normal girls. And the last time I checked, most guys weren’t looking for a date whose chemotherapy schedule would have to be worked around.

So then you just stop going out. You realize this is temporary and it may not be fair, but it was the hand you were dealt.

You live with it.

You stop sulking.

Hair grows back.

Weight can be lost.

Love is still out there to be found.

The bars aren’t going anywhere and you can graduate next semester.

They caught it early.

You are going to be okay.

Other people have it SO much worse.

You will still get that whole wonderful life that you always dreamed about.

You are lucky fortunate blessed.