Chapter 58: “My First (Anxiety-Riddled) Concert”
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My mind pushed out tragic thoughts of the house fire and instead continued churning its gleeful slideshow of happy memories set to upbeat pop music. It was like an Aunt who returned from vacation and a shitty house DJ all rolled into one. But every so often, the lingering anxiety would rear its ugly head, penetrating the very stability I had once thought I possessed.
Late one night, I began to worry about my throat closing up and sure enough, the feeling returned. I tried to fight it off, knowing that the feeling was likely due to the thought of it, but by then, it was too late.
I felt as though I would die again. I tried to ruminate on what I ate that day that was potentially a new food allergy (I had none). There wasn’t anything in my diet that was out of the ordinary, so I ruled that out. Nevertheless, the feeling persisted and my heart began to race.
I hadn’t smoked weed for quite some time, and so I knew that it wasn’t in my head and that this instance, needed medical attention pronto. It was a little past eleven and I asked my Mom if she could drive me to the hospital.
My Mom has always been one to go to the hospital as a preventative measure and well, she is a Mom, so she obliged. We jumped in her car and off we went. I had never seen my Mom speed. Ever. We were going fifty in a twenty-five and sure enough, the police were doing their hourly rounds looking for something to do. They pulled us over and Mom was exactly what I needed in that moment. “My son needs to go to the hospital, he’s having trouble breathing and his heart is racing.”
The cop nodded and led the way to the emergency department. We jumped out of the car and headed inside. It was startling to me how similar this had felt to the previous time, regardless if I was high or not; panic is panic The fight-or-flight response is present either way, but I was too freaked to use that knowledge to calm down.
Hours later, after waiting in the small line of waiting room chairs and through the standard tests, I was given a clean bill of health and a face full of shame. We went home, both exhausted, and went to bed. Panic attacks take a lot out of you. Your heart pounds as though you just ran a marathon. That was another thing–
When I was told of how the chemotherapy would affect my heart, I was told to never run a marathon or anything, so I knew that when I got into these tizzies, I could have easily stopped my heart. If it weren’t for my bi-annual Echocardiograms, then I would surely have panicked over this as well.
It was as though I needed to hear it from my doctor to prove that I was okay. Oftentimes, this was the case with my oncologist. I’d worry about whether or not cancer had returned, examining my recent energy and bruises and then realize it was because of my worrying that I would react to my lethargy and expound upon it to the Nth degree.
During this recent emergency visit, I was prescribed some Ativan for my anxiety. I looked to this medication like the crutch they had intended. Every time I needed “to relax,” I popped an Ativan. The resulting stupor made for a useless Jamie, so I tried not to use it often, but it calmed my nerves enough to get me through the panic attack. I was going to need it too, as I was asked to attend a concert– my first concert. Ever.
My former roommate Tony and his girlfriend, Cara, his sister, and a few others were going to Taking Back Sunday and Jimmy Eat World in Providence, Rhode Island. I hadn’t heard much of TBS, but I was a massive JEW fan. That’s not a nice acronym. The album, Futures, was a big inspiration to me so clearly, I said yes, and we carpooled down to the concert.
The ride was a long one. Rhode Island was the farthest away from home that I had ever traveled in my short life that wasn’t to my sister’s in Connecticut.
I was mildly anxious on the way down. I feared not being in the vicinity of a hospital. What if I needed medical attention?! So I popped an Ativan. Luckily, it wore off as we entered the parking structure near the Dunkin Donuts Arena. *Shudder* Or was it, UNluckily?
I couldn’t believe that I was still feeling the effects of my anxiety. I thought it was only innately tied to marijuana use. But once we got inside, I could feel the energy of the crowd as we all awaited the Emo sounds of two of the biggest Emo bands around. Actually, it was at this concert that I realized that JEW was even labeled as “Emo.” I thought they were just alternative-rock. Shows how much I knew.
The Format opened the show. I had no clue who this band was– I mean as if anyone would know a guy named Nate Ruess!
Then, my favorite band at the time graced the stage. They opened with the title track from their new album, Futures, and any anxiousness I had melted away with their presence. I sang along with every song I recognized and enjoyed all of the ones that I didn’t. It seemed they had other records before Bleed American. Good to know.
*No audio because it’s just terrible overmodulated noise.
Then TBS entered and caused a massive eruption of applause. I had only heard two of their songs prior, but their show definitely opened me to listening to more. Tony and the others went for them and so they were having a ball but I got to admit: this is just what I needed to get out of my funk. The lead singer even got to a point where they were throwing slices of bread out into the crowd. Don’t ask me why!
Once the show was done, we drove back home. I had to take another Ativan because the anxiety had returned. It’s so bizarre how it goes away when I’m having a good time…
I soon fell asleep but awoke to the car stopping into a parking spot. The gang had decided that a late night meal was in order and we stopped at IHOP. I had never been to one of these and decided to get their chicken fingers. Then, the biggest revelation hit me: I had NO IDEA that this was the International House of Pancakes!! No fricking wonder that chain was so popular! So much for knowing my acronyms!
Months later, my Dad told me how he had heard Travis was rushed to the ER by Mom because he was “high.” Yes, that means that either my Dad conflated us (and the fact that I wasn’t high this time) or he was secretly trying to make me feel bad. It had to have been the former. I never corrected him out of shame for my unnecessary ER visit. If only I knew how frequent those visits would become…
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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