‘The Biggest Daydream’: Living Cancer-Free

By Inside Stories | August 14, 2019

  • Tandalaya Taylor reads to fellow students in UW's Odyssey Project. (Photo by Kevin Mullen)

Tandalaya Taylor reads to fellow students in UW's Odyssey Project. (Photo by Kevin Mullen)

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Dreaming can help some people get through incredibly difficult times. Tandalaya Taylor of Madison, Wisconsin talks about how daydreaming helped her overcome a major health crisis and appreciate everyday life.


You want to know what I love?

I love travelling, great earrings, and purses. I mean, who wouldn’t love to shop every day, all day, with not a care or worry in the world? I envision myself walking through the airport with my favorite pair of black queen earrings, my cute matching cross body purse, taking a first class flight to the Bahamas.

I found myself doing that all too often. I had so much time on my hands. When I daydreamed, it started to affect my day job.

Once I was told to take my lunch, I got back to reality. What a long day of shopping and traveling in my mind! Now I deserve lunch for that.

Daydreaming was good to me until I had an unexpected visitor that would put my daydreaming into jeopardy.

I had been feeling horrible for a few months around the holidays 2015 into early spring 2016 — never knowing in my mind I’m nearing the end of my time.

I was so tired I almost couldn’t make it to the doctor appointment. I wasn’t motivated to go because I was tired of not getting an answer. I finally dragged myself to the doctor, got in my car, drove twenty minutes. Never planned in my mind that I would drive the doctor, but I would ride in the ambulance to the emergency room.

It’s all a blur.

My appointment was 9 AM. Granted, I had two IV’s that were taking blood. I lost one IV trying to go to the bathroom. As blood dripped down my hand where the IV was, I was on the road to finding out what was wrong with me.

Eight hours later, one doctor came in and said, “You look good compared to what your body is going through. So we’re going to keep you overnight.” I suddenly had a sigh of relief. I asked, “Would I be able to get some food now?” He smiled and said, “Yes.” As life was about to choke full force, it turns out having food would be the start (and least) of my worries.

Another doctor came in and told me he ran every test he could possibly run. He said I had leukemia. I just looked at him like, “I know damn well he don’t think I know this doctor lingo.” What the hell was that supposed to mean?

He said it again, but this time he said, “You have cancer.”

I said, “I thought you said you would run every test possible and rule everything out.” He said he was sorry to tell me this.

Then I called my mom and said, “They think I have cancer.” Even though he was truly sure that’s what it was.

I called my mom because I wanted her to call him and tell him about his self. Don’t be telling her baby she got cancer. My mom was gonna tell him about himself and that’s all I was thinking. Like at one time, she told the school worker not to be talking down on her kid. Or like that one time she told our babysitter, “Don’t tell us we can’t eat our food.”

Then, I finally moved to my first room after being admitted to the hospital. I wasn’t realizing how severe this was until I went into another unit. It was the ICU. I had to get my overly high blood rate under control before I could get my first dose of chemo, which by the way put me in a coma for two days.

I wasn’t sure how long I had been there since all the days were running together. It was never told to me what stage cancer I was in. I was always told it’s aggressive. If I didn’t go to the doctor appointment when I did, I probably would have died.

There is a point I always go back to after eight rounds of chemo…

After two bone marrow tests…

After various trips to the hospital for infections…

After losing my hair…

After four unsuccessful tries of getting stem cells…

After telling son I had cancer…

After not having an appetite…

After many restless nights…

After not being able to daydream about traveling to places with no signs of cold weather anywhere and getting new earrings and anything possible for that matter…

I finally got good news.

Besides finding out I was stage four cancer, the chemo was working. There was no evidence of the disease, also known as N.E.D., my new boyfriend.

I got stem cells. I made them on my own with the booster shot, of course. I had to get chemo one last time to get my stem cells ready. For these new stem cells I was about to receive, I’d be going into hospital for one month. Take chemo for seven days.

This may have been the hardest chemo I’ve ever gotten. All the chemo I had before was every three weeks and they all had different side effects.

This one made my hair come out in patches.

I didn’t have energy.

I wanted people to visit me.

I had a blood vessel busted from throwing up.

It was hurtful but I made it to transplant day. Wipe my system out and receive a new beginning. It’s like filing Chapter 7 bankruptcy in my body.

I wanted to go home and heal there.

Tandalaya Taylor of Madison living cancer-free. (Courtesy of Tandalaya Taylor)

Tandalaya Taylor of Madison living cancer-free. (Courtesy of Tandalaya Taylor)

April 20, 2016 is a day I’ll never forget. December 28, 2016 is the day I will forever be grateful for. I’m living my life after cancer. I enjoy every day as my last because I don’t know how much time I have here.

One thing I was always worried about is that the cancer will come back. I hear many stories of people being in remission for many years and then cancer returning. The thing about cancer is that there’s not a cure, so I’m not fully cured. With cancer, I’m just living my life like it doesn’t exist.

This time when I daydream, it’s really to take the trip to the Bahamas with my new ‘Surviving Cancer’ earrings and ‘I Survived Cancer’ T-shirt. The biggest daydream is really a reality because it involves being cancer-free. Another moment to daydream, another moment of life.

Tandalaya Taylor’s edited story came to us from the UW Odyssey Project, where low-income adults find their voices and earn college credit in an English literature course. Taylor was a guest on the new podcast ‘Inside Stories,’ which features Madison storytellers and digs deeper into their lives. Hear the full version of Tandalaya Taylor’s story to learn more about her experience.   


SONG: “Day Dreaming” by Roy Ayers Ubiquity

Inside Stories

Inside Stories

Storytelling has a way of amplifying voices and lowering fences in our communities. “Inside Stories” podcast explores Madison one story at a time. In each episode, Takeyla Benton and Jen Rubin feature a story that was told in front of an audience in Madison, then interview the storyteller to dig deeper into...
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