Like many transplant recipients, Nicole’s path to transplant and her recovery weren’t easy. She was lucky if she spent more than four or five days out of the hospital from diagnosis until transplant. At one point, the 24-year-old weighed 72 pounds. She wasn’t responding well to chemotherapy and was experiencing organ failure. A blood stem cell transplant was critical to her survival. After a month, Nicole found a matching donor.
Despite the tough times she went through, Nicole views her transplant experience as an opportunity to help others and add meaning to her life. Here’s her story, in her own words.
My experience made me appreciate life more. After transplant, I set mini milestones to stay focused on getting my energy back. From getting winded and being in a wheelchair, to being able to lift small weights and go for walks, I gradually got back to living life! I was doing the things I did before but with a greater purpose.
As individuals, we empower our bodies to recover and get stronger. With the support of my friends and family, I would look forward to small pleasures, like walking on the beach. I also went to a wellness center to help with my recovery. I was always very independent so I was reluctant at first, but the people there helped me challenge myself and move forward. Staying focused on the future and continuing to plan for tomorrow helped.
Making it through a tough time inspires me to live each day in the moment. When I do something, I give it my all. I went back to college three months after returning home from the hospital. I am passionate about volunteering and sharing my transplant story. I visited a cancer center and brought blankets for patients. Being an example of hope for other patients is what I love about survivorship.
Getting this far was not always easy. I struggled with finances during treatment and often dreaded looking at my bills. I was young during my transplant and wanted to be out doing things. I had to stay focused, take small steps and not let struggles get in the way of my progress.
Today, I’m determined to make the best of my experience. My goal is to help other patients like me get the chance to experience life with a new perspective. Even though I am very strong and healthy today, I still hold onto every second of life and take advantage of each opportunity that comes my way.
Your sense of meaning
The search for meaning in life is part of being human. During a health crisis, it is normal to move through an ongoing emotional process of suffering, coping and making meaning. Reflecting on the impact of your transplant experience and how you make sense of your situation can lead to positive coping.
Think about how transplant has changed your sense of meaning and your outlook on life. Ask:
- What new insights have I gained from the experience?
- In what ways has this journey made me aware of my strengths?
- How have my priorities (the things I care about) changed?
- What is now clear in my life that wasn’t before? What is less clear?
- How can I use my experience to make my life more meaningful?