My name is Ashley Williams from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I was diagnosed with Aggressive Fibromatosis, a sarcoma in my leg, when I was 27-years-old.
Today was the worst day EVER. Today was my first chemo day.
I woke up before the sun, trying to beat Miami traffic on a Wednesday morning. Ninety minutes later, after a stand-still accident in the express lane, I made it just in time for my first appointment.
Unfortunately, I didn’t factor in “parking” time, as the lot was full, and it took an extra 15 minutes to secure a space. Late to my appointment, I finished my check-up and blood work fairly quickly.
Now it was onto the infusion center - as soon as we get out of the parking lot - which was manned by a parking attendant who only accepted cash, and all we had was a credit card. I arrived at the infusion center an hour later, after searching the crevices of my car, and finally finding $2 worth of coins.
While checking in, I quickly realized the office was Spanish-speaking only – a language I barely understand. I signed in by making motions and faces to the receptionist, then sat and waited. And waited… and waited… and waited. Seeing as chemo scared me, I wasn’t in a hurry to have my name called. I waited two hours before checking back with the receptionist. A fellow bilingual patient was kind enough to help translate, and it turned out, I did not understand the pronunciation of my name when the doctor called me three times, and I missed my appointment. They said they would squeeze me in.
It was late in the afternoon when my chemo infusion began. I had a mixture of two medications and multiple pushes of heparin, leaving my mouth tasting like metal and cleaning fluid. When it was all over, I felt “weird,” and struggled to keep my balance as I walked out of the center on crutches.
I don’t remember the ride home. I was lost somewhere between sleep and space. But I do remember the smell of gas fumes, and the aggravation of being stuck in rush hour traffic, AGAIN. I just wanted to be home and put this awful day behind me. I only had one final stop -- my parent’s house.
That morning, I had driven to pick up my parents before the trek to chemo, and decided to drop my dog Bo at their house. I wanted him there to greet me when I arrived after conquering my biggest fear. I had this romantic picture of sitting on my parent’s couch, snuggling with Bo and staring at the twinkle lights on the Christmas tree. Something about this scene made the threat of cancer not seem so scary.
We pulled up to my parents' house, and I was ecstatic to get out of the car and live my romantic moment. My dad unlocked the door, where Bo greeted us -- with a large Styrofoam ball in his mouth.
You know those ornaments you make as kids? A decorated Styrofoam ball with your cutest childhood photo pasted on the front?
Bo considered these ornaments his personal play toys. And while we were gone, he found every single hand-made ornament on the tree, and scattered their remains across the house.
Sometimes, the cancer and chemo life can be overwhelming. When everything seems to be going wrong, I’m reminded of Bo’s smiling face surrounded by remnants of my childhood craft projects. In that moment all I could do was laugh. I laughed until I cried and struggled to breath. And today, that moment only brings me joy.