By Verónica Lira. Illustration by Sofía Altieri @caos_ilustrado

Have you ever asked yourself: how did I get here? Most of the times we are not quite sure about the decisions that lead us to a certain outcome. Usually, we retrace our steps to understand how or why we got there and sometimes never have an clear explanation. Two years ago, I asked myself this question while staring into a bright light, covered in a blue gown, and with a tube attached to my arm. “How did I get here?” Not even the doctors knew, but they were certain I had to be operated – and fast.

I woke up to a room full of nurses and patients, they took me to see my family. I couldn’t move. I realized I had two little plastic balls coming out of my tummy, they hurt. As I became more conscious my mom looked at me and said “It’s over now, they took it out. It was much bigger than what we expected, they removed half of your liver with it.” It was not over. Three surgeries followed in the next couple of weeks, I felt better but my body was weaker. I then made a promise to myself: I would regenerate completely, not only would my liver grow back, but I would grow with it. I became an axolotl, a Mexican endemic amphibian with the capacity to regenerate its whole body.

As I got out of the hospital and was a prisoner to my own home, like many of us are now, except I couldn’t move or do anything by myself. I couldn’t even sit down or stand up from my own bed without help. I reflected on what had happened. I did not know how or why I got there, but I was certain about where I wanted to be. Many people told me that things – like the thing that was taking up space in my body – happen for a reason, as a calling from the universe or God. That may be true, or it may just be a whole lot of bs and self-pity. However, it is what we make of these events what truly matters. It was summer, every day was hotter that the one before, I was a sweaty mess who felt lucky but useless. Not being able to go out or dance or exercise, I decided to create things that could impact others while staying true to myself and my goals. I started writing and publishing articles, created studies to analyze gender violence, enrolled in every online course I could find. During this time I lost friends, understood the power of love, and discovered a whole new me.

Now, two years have passed. Another surgery, more pain and painkillers, new diets and new habits. Dancing again, eating chocolate, and feeling as strong as ever. Now, I know how I got here: with commitment, passion, discipline, motivation, love, support, and self-care. In the end, what matters is where I will get, what I will do, what I will learn and teach. I have grown from my past and more than ever I want to impact others, to work with people who I can learn from, to take risks, and embrace life with arms wide open.

Whatever happened, I am now an axolotl and grateful I can say “I got here.”

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