This dream occurred May 2016 after I was diagnosed with CMML and had progressed to acute leukemia very quickly. At the time, I was still hospitalized at Northside Hospital Blood and Marrow Transplant unit.
From a distance, I see a steep cliff, like the famous Cliffs of Moher in Ireland. The picture or vision suddenly zooms into a section of the cliff and I see two figures…one is tall and slender and dressed in white, and the other figure is small. I can’t see the faces of either figure, but instinctively I know the small one is me. The tall figure is leaning against the cliff with his back. Once again, I instinctively know the figure is male. I am leaning against him with my back and he has his arms wrapped around me. I remember thinking, ‘who is this person who is protecting me?’ There is no sense of fear or anxiety, just calmness. I recall trying to move away from this figure’s embrace, but I couldn’t move. And I tried a few times and I still could not move. So I decided to just relax. I don’t remember how long we were there on the edge of the cliff, but the figure finally released me and off I went skipping around the puddles of water that had collected on the jetty. And I knew, at that instant, that I was going to be okay. That I would survive leukemia and stem cell transplant.
The details of the dream are still vivid to this day. Sometimes when I worry about lurking leukemia cells in my bone marrow, I remember this dream and am comforted that somehow everything will work out. I am not a religious person but I do believe there is a greater power at work. Call it what you will…God, god, the universe, the divine…it is present and alive. I think belief and hope are aspects of the greater power, and it is our jobs as survivors to meet it halfway. And by halfway, I mean, following your healthcare team’s instructions, being relentless in taking care of yourself, doing the best you can every day to prevent graft versus host disease symptoms from worsening and to stop complaining! Although you may be dealing with worse things than others, EVERYONE is going through something. Where I live, the entire house is a no-whine zone, and that applies to visitors and homeowners alike.
If we are given a second chance at life, is there a greater purpose to living or moral obligation to give back to society? Are we bound to fulfill something else in our lives? And if so, what kind of work or purpose would that be? Maybe it’s nothing more than to live our lives as we had planned prior to the transplant, but I truly don’t believe that. It’s almost as if I had a near death experience while dreaming, and given a second chance to do something meaningful with this second life.
As a curious person, I googled near-death experiences and read many stories of persons who experienced near-death occurrences. There were a couple of common denominators among all the stories. First is the suddenness and criticalness of the situation…cancer, sudden tragic accident, auto accident. Another common element is the change in career or life direction after the near-death experience.
So my question to myself and you is, ‘What have you learned from this and whom have you helped or will help?’
–Marti, leukemia and stem cell transplant survivor