Chapter 52: “My ‘Last’ Dance With Mary Jane”
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By the end of February, Mary Jane and I were in a committed relationship. I would smoke a few times a week at minimum, even though I never expected Tony to offer, but when he would offer, you best believe I accepted. I was, however, one of those guys who would tend to hover around to prompt such an invitation.
I was a moocher. My part-time hours at MBNA and my inherent lack of bonuses for “top performers” limited my expenditures and so, I’d tend to buy more food and video games than weed for the group to enjoy. In hindsight, it was a totally selfish mindset, but I know Tony didn’t care too much. I never crossed the boundary of “official freeloader.” Plus, I’d like to imagine he was like me when Travis and Jason couldn’t afford movie tickets; he was out to ensure everyone had a good time.
And the good times were a-rollin’. The bongs that Tony owned were killer and we rarely used any other delivery device. Taking a hit from a bong is like sucking on an exhaust pipe for five to ten seconds; it’s an enormous amount of smoke at once and you will cough. Like. Hell.
Late one night, I took one too many rips off of the bong and the coughing was more fierce than ever before. My throat burned and felt tighter than usual and with that, my mind raced back to that fateful afternoon in the outpatient clinic during my Amphotericin injection. One minute, I’m sitting next to my Dad watching an old action movie on VHS, the next I’m getting hit with an EpiPen praying for my heart to slow down.
The feeling of my throat closing in upon itself was present in the moment after the hit. Or it sure as shit felt like it. I began to pace, trying to calm the fire within my throat, but all I could think about then was the little tidbit of info the Doctor gave me after the anaphylactic shock: “Had we waited ten more minutes, you would have died.” It had been three minutes, so I knew that time was of the essence. Simultaneously, my chest tightened and my heart sprinted for a new record.
Tony and the others sat back relaxed, giving me words of positivity. “Jaim, have a seat and take a deep breath. You’ll be all set in a few minutes.”
That didn’t help. I was deep in the recesses of my mind, and I knew that somehow, I was allergic to weed. I had already ruled out everything else with which I had come into contact recently (they were all several hours past anyway), so it HAD to be the weed.
We were still under the ten-minute mark and I had to get to a hospital so that they could give me a shot of the EpiPen. I don’t care if I get arrested for drug use on the spot; my life was something that I wanted to hang onto for a bit longer.
There was no way on God’s Green Earth that I would be able to drive myself to the hospital. Not only is it illegal and dangerous but also, my heart couldn’t take the stress. But there was no way Tony or the others could neither, so I contemplated it for a second and went down to see Shawn in our shared room. He was fast asleep as he had to be at work at 4:30, but again, this was a matter of life or death.
Shawn was resistant at first. He told me to calm down, but once I explained what WAS REALLY GOING ON and pestered him some more, he finally obliged and we took my car.
The ride to the hospital was one of the longest drives in all of my life. As every minute ticked away, I knew I was that much closer to certain death. Clearly, my panic was a result of the body attempting to burn off the weed.
I continually pestered Shawn to drive faster. Luckily, we didn’t hit any police on the way at one of the many Police Spots because I would certainly die due to their meddling.
We reached the Emergency Room door of the hospital and I went into the check-in office to get help. The lady spoke calmly and softly to assist me in calming down, but I was to have none of that shit. I needed help NOW.
She performed the initial questioning and had me sit outside in the waiting hallway (the area was extremely narrow). Shawn propped his head with his hand as it bounced on his knee. He was clearly tired, but I didn’t notice. All I could think of was how much time had passed. Somehow, I had made it well past ten minutes now, but I knew that my increased heart rate was likely helping prevent the throat from closing fully; a natural Epipen, if you will.
Finally, the nurse called my name and in we went into the examination room. I proceeded to spill my guts.
“I smoked some marijuana and I know it’s terrible, but I think I may have developed an allergic reaction to the marijuana. I have the same feeling in my throat as when I was in the hospital for Leukemia. I had a fungal infection last year and I had this exact feeling in my throat, anaphylaxis, and my doctor later told me that if I waited ten minutes I would have died.”
They nodded politely. “Ok, well let’s get you checked out.”
They didn’t GET it…
They wrapped the blood pressure cuff around my arm and took my vitals. They placed the blood oxygen tester on my index finger. My BP and heart rate were clearly elevated.
“See? My heart rate is through the roof!”
“You know that marijuana raises your blood pressure too, right?”
“It does?!” I contemplated how to explain that too.
After a while of me lying down on the hospital bed in the curtained off room, my vitals returned to normal and that familiar exhaustion found its way into my body. I needed to go home and sleep. Finally, I felt an emotion with which Shawn could relate.
Surprisingly, there was no cops or trouble afoot. They let us go swiftly and professionally. I was grateful that I didn’t have to rub elbows with the officers of the law anytime soon and quickly scooted out the door before they changed their mind. Shawn and I headed home and got ready for bed. I felt terrible for putting him through this as it had been abundantly clear to me know that my issue wasn’t an allergic reaction.
Shawn fell right back asleep, but I sat quietly for a moment reflecting on my night. The trick to beating this sudden… anxiety attack as the diagnosis read was to get medical help. Of course, I could just try calming down, but who knows how effective that would be? I mean, I thought I was allergic to weed.
Well, at least I won’t be smoking anytime soon.
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.
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