In August of 2000, when I was 24, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After a few weeks in the hospital with a secondary infection and 8 months of treatment — six cycles of chemo and 30 days of radiation — I was declared to be in remission in June of 2001.

One of the first things I learned was that most people in their 20s have never known someone their age with cancer. I know I hadn’t. And so, it turned out that the hardest thing for me about being sick wasn’t any of the things we normally hear about: losing my hair, throwing up from chemo, baristas at Starbucks calling me “sir” — it was the loneliness and isolation I felt when people in my life disappeared because they didn’t know what to say or do, or just didn’t know how to -be- around me. …


Emily McDowell

Writer, illustrator & founder of Emily McDowell Studio: greeting cards & gifts for the relationships we really have.

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