Chapter 2- “Loved Ones”
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Now that I finally had a focal point to all of this nonsense, Hoover Dam burst at its seams and out came tears of pain. I’m going to die. I hadn’t thought that thought for quite some time.
But here it was, front and center in the foreground of my mind. It’s crazy how every other worry in your life melts away and the core of death is all that remains.
It wasn’t that much longer before I was able to fall asleep. After that endless night of confusion, panic, and fear it was good to lay my head on a pillow, even though it was an uncomfortable hospital bed.
The next morning (a few hours later), I was awoken by a barrage of nurses and phlebotomists who decided that my blood was no longer mine. They drained me of four rather large tubes the width of a broomstick (and just as long) and around eight standard test tubes. “We need a full spectrum of testing” which translated to “We’re motherfucking Dracula.”
Shortly after I received a meal. It was the standard “Welcome to the Club!” Pad Menu you get if you don’t submit an order. But even if I able to choose, no choice could have matched what came next: the most important decision of my life.
The same doctor from last night came back along with a nice female doctor and that aforementioned life-changing choice. They informed me of the disease and laid the decision out like Morpheus and his two colored pills:
“Since you’re eighteen, you can choose to stay down here on the sixth floor in the adult oncology wing, or you can come upstairs in the Pediatric Ward for your treatment.”
I actually had to think about it for a moment. If I were to stay on Six, I would be surrounded by a lot of suffering old people. If I went upstairs, I could play Billiards! And video games!
Okay, so it wasn’t a hard decision. I immediately chose the latter and went upstairs. Again, I was treated like a patient on his “way out,” and they wheeled me up on the wheelchair. Apparently, they don’t want me to get any exercise around here.
I arrived upstairs, and it was at once comforting and haunting. The thought crept its way into my mind, there was no escaping it: This is where I live now. They cornered my wheelchair to the first room on the right, 851: my new home. The nurses came in and introduced themselves. All of the nurses on eight had this maternal instinct to them, and me being only eighteen really justified them to “fight” for the title of Surrogate Mother.
The doctor, Judy M soon came in and explained the process. I was to get hit by three large rounds of chemo and then four small ones. The whole ordeal would last around six months or so. It was Wednesday, and in order to prepare the first round of chemotherapy, they would need a few days. Saturday was the start day. Way to make my favorite day of the week my most hated day…
She also took the time to explain the difference in my Leukemia, AML, versus the child form of Leukemia, ALL. In ALL, the treatment lasts about two years, and there is a higher chance for remission. With my kind, AML, there is a stronger attack on the cancer cells, which means a smaller treatment window of six months… but there is a higher chance that this could recur after the initial treatment.
However, she also said that my blood was only forty-seven percent infected, and normally, by the time people come in, it’s at a full one hundred percent. So that was potentially good news, but I wasn’t out of the woods yet.
Then the nurses listed off all of the potential drugs I would receive to combat the chemo treatment and its side effects (including some potential ones). There were quite a few, of which I can’t remember.
After this day, I was… fine. Believe it or not, I had no worries about what I was going through. The staff on Grant 8 Pediatrics did such an amazing job explaining the disease, the treatment, its success rate, and prognosis, that I truly felt ok. I accepted their explanations and without any other thought in my mind, I gave myself to them, like people to do Jesus in times of difficulty.
Little did I know how the next few months would truly test this mindset…
The next day led to numerous tests and procedures. I had spinal taps, CBCs, CMPs, and a simple procedure to insert a port-a-cath into my chest to enable easier access to my veins. That way, I didn’t have to get so many IVs. I felt like a pin cushion already, but my spirits remained high. I’m going to beat this.
The next step for my self-preservation was preserving the offspring of “self.” I needed to… provide a sample. If I were to get a bone marrow transplant, the process would render me sterile. So for the future of my lineage and for prosperity, I donated sperm.
I felt like I was in a bad comedy, or at least American Pie 2. Every comedy show or movie series eventually resorts to donating sperm and I felt like I was committing a trope. My step-dad Gary even had to get me some “reading material.” The entire thing was awkward, and all I could think about is that someday there could be a kid down the road because of this.
Oh God, I was thinking about kids? Oh no… No wonder it took so long. Anyway–
For the next few days, I received an outpour of support via dozens of “Get Well Soon” cards, countless calls from friends and family, and several visits in-person.
My Memére and Pepére lit a candle, a symbol of protection in Catholicism, and told me that they would continuously have one lit until after I was done treatment. Who knew how long that would be? They must have purchased a surplus from Catholic Shopper for this.
Memére and Pepére were also one of the few who would call every single night, to the point where we had nothing to really discuss, but it was a grand gesture and it meant the world.
I had a couple visit, two managers from MBNA (Brian and Stephanie), along with their little sister, Danielle, who was also a lifelong classmate of mine. That was a truly unexpected and welcome visit. It was good to talk about life outside of the call center, but you know how it goes when talking to a co-worker outside the confines of said job; sooner or later it always comes back to work talk. To that point, they actually had a company card that all of the workers had signed. That was a great touch.
Another absolutely unexpected visit was from another girl, like Danielle, that I had been classmates with for the entire twelve years of school: Karee. Karee and I had never been truly close but what she had done for me was insanely awesome.
She rallied a bunch of classmates to come down with her and visit me. She also brought gifts and a card to boot. I’d told her this then (and I still feel this way) but that was one of the nicest things anyone had ever done for me. I’ll never forget it.
I had received so many visits from the people who were able to do so. But there was one good friend that had never come down to visit and that was ok. Whether or not he could handle seeing me like that, or if he was afraid it could be the last time he would see me, at any rate, he never came down.
If you’re reading this dear friend, don’t feel bad and definitely don’t beat your self up about it. I was never mad and have always forgiven you for it.
At any rate, all of the love really showed me just how beautiful something like Cancer could become–
No matter how bad things can get, cancer brings out the best in people.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.