It’s all coming back

Never forget who you are or where you came from.

It is in this you will find your strength

Isn’t it strange how a song can bring back a memory, certain feelings, or even cause you to relive moments?

When I was first diagnosed with brain cancer, Celine Dion was at the peak of  her singing career. Most people think of her for the song she did in Titanic but in my opinion, she has plenty of other great songs. Whenever I was in the car, driving to an appointment in Baltimore, one of her song’s was usually on the radio. Between 1995-1998, while I was fighting childhood brain cancer and struggling to stay alive, Celine Dion was creating chart-topping hits. By March of 1997, when my cancer came back a second time, I’m dating myself by saying this, but my Celine Dion Falling Into You cassette went everywhere with me. I would listen to it in the car to and from Johns Hopkins, during MRIs,  and even radiation treatments. Celine Dion and her music got me through some difficult times in my life.

The other morning, I woke up with It’s all coming back to me now stuck in my head. My mind was immediately flooded with memories. Being at Johns Hopkins hospital, walking through the hallways, the distinct smell of the offices. Or the hospital rooms surrounded by other kids, often crying or even those who could not speak English but receiving medical care in America is better compared to what they’d receive in their country.

Not all of these memories are bad, some of them I look back on with fondness. Although the children’s center has completely changed, there used to be a pretend zoo in the lobby, outside of the cafeteria, with stuffed animals in cages. My family and I used to spend hours down there just so we could escape my hospital room. One of the cages had a camera in it that connected to a TV channel so the kids could watch people walking by. After visiting my mom and I, my dad and brothers would wave up at the camera to tell us goodnight.

I had so many wonderful nurses, always caring, kind hearted, and a ray of sunshine, which when you’re stuck in a hospital room, sunshine and positive vibes are not something you typically feel. And all my amazing doctors, I am so beyond grateful for them. They would always check on me and sneak me treats from the cafeteria.

I remember receiving radiation, I had to wear a lead vest that felt like it weighed more than me and this lovely mask that held my head to the table. The radiation had a distinct, burning smell. During treatments, the radiologist would play my Celine Dion tape (the music was a good distraction) My radiologists were so kind and always made me laugh. After each treatment, they would give me a little gift. One time, they gave me a Little Mermaid washcloth that grew when you ran it under water. As a 7 year old, I was pretty fascinated by that. The one radiologist used to jokingly flirt with me, always saying how I was so brave, and he would try to sing along with Celine.  Maybe it doesn’t sound like fun but it was, it’s important to find the positives in everything.

One of my favorite places in Hopkins to visit whether I was recovering from surgery and cooped up in my room all day or if just there for an appointment, is “the big Jesus” statute. I always found such peace in that statute and often thought if I could just crawl into His hands, everything will be alright. This past summer, after years of not going to Johns Hopkins hospital, my mom and I went there to visit close friends. Because they have expanded and added on to the main building, we weren’t sure if “big Jesus” was still there.  But the funny thing was, as we walked down one of main hallways, my memory came back and I found myself rushing towards Him. I turned the corner, entering into a big room with a domed ceiling and there He was smiling down at me, just like when I was younger.

Like most people, I get so caught up in life and moving forward that I often forget where I come from or what I’ve accomplished in life. For example, after months of searching, I finally have a job and I am beyond blessed but I still want more. (I feel like Ariel in The Little Mermaid) My mind is already thinking about what I need to accomplish next in my life. When I speak at certain places and tell my story, I usually just give an outlined version of specific events. But that Celine Dion song brought back so many memories, some great and some not so great. It reminded me of where I’ve been, what shaped the person I am today, and what is important to me. And more importantly, to be thankful for what I have now and to live in the present moment. It’s easy to get caught in worrying about the future but we all need a flash from the past to remind us who we really are.

Remember who you are

-The Lion King

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