Chapter 30: “Amphoterrible”
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After the first week of hospitalization, I was told that I was a pleasant patient; I never made a commotion, was absurdly polite, and most importantly, did what I was told.
I was also commended over the course of my various treatments about how well my body was reacting to the chemotherapy. Sure, I had the requisite amount of nausea, lack of hunger, and hair loss, but overall, the astounded nurses and doctors reassured me that I had had it better than most of the kids they had treated.
In my short experience with life, when you had tempted fate like that, it was bound to strike like a viper in retaliation. I’m sure that the Gods decided that they were being too easy on me anyway; it was time for something “fascinating.”
The morning was uneventful; I awoke sluggishly (as I often did, even before Leukemia), and turned on the television. My breakfast was already here: bacon and home fries (I didn’t like eggs), with orange juice, and a two percent milk (I didn’t like coffee either). I removed the blue, ornamental plastic dome and set it aside. I hacked up the daily mucosal impediment, but I kept coughing (why was I still coughing?), and to top it off, my shoulder hurt this morning.
Maybe I slept awkwardly? I hadn’t experienced an issue with sleeping since being introduced to the magic of the adjustable hospital bed. As soon as I lay on any medical mattress, it was as close to a Pavlovian response as I’d ever felt: out like a light. So as I went to rub the kink from out my shoulder, my hand passed over a bump.
Fuck. Fuck! FUCK! Please, not a tumor. Please, oh please.
I rang my nurse bell immediately and not so surprisingly, I wasn’t all that hungry anymore. The desk answered then the nurse arrived. “So much for my good behavior award,” I declared, “I’m going to be a bit neurotic here.”
I showed her the bump, and explained my persistent cough, so she got Dr. McGann on the phone. I quickly became the subject at an alien lab experiment once again: poked and prodded by half a dozen people. Dr. McGann requested a CT Scan of my chest cavity. She wore a reserved yet troubled look on her face but I could tell, it’s always in the eyes.
My eyes, in turn, screamed “OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT!” Soon enough, I was calm enough to think rationally, and it helped by how Dr. McGann could explain all of the possible (less deadly) causes in laymen terms. “Your counts are so low, that this could be the body’s reaction to a seemingly simple ailment that any normal person would easily defeat.”
Huh. Not bad, Doc, you’ve calmed my new friend, Anxiety.
The transporter knocked on my door, and I was quickly whisked away to the first floor. I loved how immediate everything was in the hospital. You didn’t have to schedule an appointment and then wait for a month to go to it. You’d schedule something and within an hour, it was over (except for that dreadful MRI).
The halls were always frigid, both in temperature and aesthetic appeal. I’d pass by hospital workers who were indifferent; lost in their own worlds, then the visitors and other patients who would stare at you, trying to unravel your story in the brief moments they had before you rattled by in your curative chariot.
Wow, the CT room was just as cold. They threw a blanket over me as I laid there, under the brand new and welcoming machine the hospital had just acquired.
It hemmed and hawed during each imaging phase. Then the Radiologist would instruct me to lie in another position of the medical Kama Sutra book. The pain of lying awkwardly on the cold bench became too much to bear, but I still fought off my urge to jump off of the slab and stretch (throwing fists at the same time).
I went up to my room (the marvelous 864) and tried to enjoy a movie. It was already lunchtime, and I was calm enough to eat now. I had to make a promise to myself that even in the face of Death or serious illness that I should eat when able. I can’t face this battle on an empty stomach, without nourishment.
Lunch came and went. I had two big, grisly cheeseburgers and French fries, almost like “Past Jamie” who ordered knew “Future Jamie” would need the diesel fuel; surprising, considering I had been self-relegated to the ground beef and noodles for most meals these days.
The doctor came in wearing that same reserved worry upon her face. “We need to schedule you for a lung biopsy, we suspect there is a fungal infection in your lungs, but we cannot be sure until we perform the procedure. In the meantime, we’re going to get you on some broad spectrum antibiotics, and an antifungal called Amphotericin.”
My eyes temporarily crossed during this long-winded plan of action. “Okay, so when will the procedure take place?”
“We’re scheduling it for the ninth, but it’s dependent on when your counts can come back. As soon as you are close to normal, then we can perform the procedure. We’ll conduct regular CT scans to monitor the infection’s activity and response the medication. Don’t worry, we’ll beat this.”
I sighed heavily, and flashed a fake smirk; I couldn’t hide my apprehension but knew that Dr. McGann and Dr. Allen wouldn’t steer me in the wrong direction.
The doctor left, and my Mom, Gary, and I were left to worry. Gary and I began to comfort Mom, telling her that it would be fine (I still had to play my “reassuring son” role). Camera speeds. Sound speeds. Camera set, aaaaand action!
A few minutes later, one of the nurses came in to check up on me. “Boy, they’re putting you on ‘Amphoterrible,’ huh?”
“Wait, why did you call it that?” I worriedly pondered.
“The kids who’ve had it call it that. It causes violent, uncontrollable tremors throughout your body.”
This will be my on-going story of my personal battle with Cancer. I’ve been wanting to write this for years, and 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 first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. A LOT will change when it’s published.
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.