On November 17th, I celebrated the three-year anniversary of the end of my leukemia relapse treatment. In going through the day, I thought a lot about what I went through. I thought a lot about how I ever survived it all. I remember so vividly those hopeless moments, hours, days, months of nausea, pain, and so many forms of discomfort. What stands out to me was the hopelessness and the intensity of it all. In such hopeless, negative, draining, horrible moments, how did I push forward? How did I convince myself to keep going, to keep taking everything that was making me feel so bad? Now, I know how I did it.
When there was no hope, I used my imagination to create it – I imagined hope. I dreamt about going back to school, about dancing at senior prom, about going on my first date, about graduating high school, about going to college, about becoming a doctor, about getting married. I dreamt about everything I wanted to experience in my life and it gave me hope, no matter how hopeless I felt in that moment of suffering. I imagined how incredibly wonderful all those experiences would be and how it would not be long until I reach them … I just had to keep pushing through. To really keep those ideas and dreams fresh in my mind, so that they could keep motivating me, I would often write them down in a journal or in the notes app on my phone. Keeping them as written reminders made them even more helpful and I could keep looking back at them to remind myself of the good things that were ahead of me.
Looking back on it now, having lived out at least half of those dreams I had for myself, in more wonderful ways than I could have ever imagined, I can truly say imagining hope made a difference for me.
So, when you feel the worst, when you feel the most hopeless, when you are the most beat down, I encourage you to imagine your future. Dream about the experiences you want to have and the things you want to accomplish, imagine the life you could have (I’m sure it’s going to be a pretty good one). In doing so, you can force hope into your mind and heart, which can give you that extra push to get through the suffering you face and let you know there is an end to it and a bright future ahead of you.
Clarissa Schilstra is a student at Duke University who blogs at Riding the Cancer Coaster: Survival Guide for Teens.