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Whether it was fleeting or developed into something more serious, it made me feel wanted, and loved, like my old self again.
And when I felt sick, or angry, or frustrated about treatment or being stuck in the hospital, I could draw on the memories of the connections I'd made, and remind myself that even the darkest moments in life are temporary, and that there would be good times ahead.
At 25, my non-Hodgkin returned as Burkitt's lymphoma.
During my eight months of treatment, I was out of the hospital one week each month, and I made the most of it.
I'd always make sure to tell them about the transplant/artificial leg before we got back to my room, before I revealed my punk rock pixie short hair. They weren't looking for anything serious, and neither was I.
One guy told me that his mother had died of cancer, and the next day we nodded at each other awkwardly across the cafeteria. Like most of my friends, I waited until after college to start dating more seriously in New York City.
" I didn't tell my Winter Formals date, hoping he'd notice my dance moves more than my penciled on eyebrows and the extra eyeliner I'd applied to make up for my missing eyelashes.
At times it's a struggle because I don't want to feel like I'm hiding anything, and yet, I have to remind myself that hearing about one of these health "bumps" can be a lot to process when you're first getting to know someone, let alone a heart attack, heart transplant, leg amputation, and two bouts of cancer.
It was important to me to tell them what happened, to help them understand why I tried to squeeze as much as I could into each day.
But once it was out in the open, we needed to be able to move beyond it so that they could know me as a person. I felt a lump on my neck the summer after my freshman year, which turned out to be non-Hodgkin Lymphoma (diffuse Large B-Cell).
As a 16-year-old high school senior, I had a sudden, massive heart attack with no prior health problems and wasn't expected to live through the night.
I waited nine months to receive a life-saving heart transplant.
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Three months later, as a freshman at Princeton University, I had to figure out the most nonchalant way to tell my new friends and occasional crushes all of this, and that "oh, by the way, I also have an above knee leg amputation." I'd already made the decision to be open about my story in the media, in the campus newspaper, and through my public speaking/advocacy, but getting to know someone on a one-to-one, intimate level was different.