Mystery Illness

It was the last football game of the season. We made a grand entrance on one of the city’s fire trucks, and with a win it seemed like the perfect way to end out my eighth grade season. Then suddenly on the way home from the game I was hit with a sudden illness, and in one swift motion I flung the door of my mothers car open into a concrete pole and hurled all over the roadway. Being younger I wasn’t so concerned about the fact that I threw up, but instead I was amazed that the swing of the door into the pole didn’t even chip the paint. This small event was only the beginning of what turned out to be a long story.

            A few weeks later my parents and I made a trip to New York City for fall break. I, never really being to a large city like that, was incredibly excited. Upon arriving in New York we dropped off our luggage at my aunts apartment, then made our way down towards Battery Park. This particular day I had no feelings of uneasiness, however, as the trip went on I grew ill. From the second day on I threw up every single morning and felt terrible the rest of the day. Finally my father stepped up and decided that he had had enough and that we needed to head home early in order to obtain a diagnosis for what ever was happening to me. We were all confused on what it was that could be causing my unpredictable bouts of sickness. I was vomiting every morning, and the only thing I would throw up would be clear phlegm.

            I headed to my family doctor as soon as possible after our return, where I had multiple tests run. They ordered a cat scan for me for the next day at the hospital. Never having any kind of major illness up to that point, the idea of any kind of radiation infested scan seemed odd and intimidating. Yet, it was completely necessary. After receiving my exam I got a call from my doctor saying that I needed to go straight to Louisville, Kentucky to the hospital there because they were unable to treat me in my hometown. My whole family was caught up in a giant web of confusion. What could be wrong with me? Why did we have to go all the way to Louisville to get help? I didn’t know what to think or what to expect. I was admitted that day to the hospital, and was a few days later confronted by my father with the news. I had to have surgery.

            The next day the doctor came in to talk to me and prep me for surgery. Before they took me from my room my pastor came and prayed with us, then I was gone. All I can remember is getting sick from the first dose of anesthesiology and then no more. I woke up in the recovery room wrap up in a multitude of warm blankets. Soon I would be moved the intensive care unit where I would stay for what seemed like days on end. With no TV or real communication of any type due to a tube stuck down my throat to pump my stomach, I saw myself in a different world where I had no real perception of time, space, or even who was there or not there with me in my curtained off section of the unit.

            I eventually got out of intensive care and moved to a room in the normal section of the hospital. Here I stayed for a week or so. My recovery was very quick after getting out of intensive care. However, I remember one night in particular when the doctors took me off of morphine. The pain I felt was unbearable. I called the nurse in multiple times to try to help me, but all they could do was give me some codeine and see if that helped. The pain that night was so bad that I had to sleep in a chair in an attempt to relieve it. Sadly that didn’t do much either. Soon I would be leaving for home. It was perhaps one of the most exciting days of my life up to that point. I felt like I had been freed from some sort of prison where I had been waiting for so long, like Nelson Mandela. From then on for the next five years I would have to go to my doctor for regular check ups, which always included a cat scan. Sometimes these check ups even included a two, day four hour, scan that check for any sign of something going wrong with my body.

            Up to this point I was unaware of what had actually happened or what had really been ailing my body. I didn’t really think about it much, just went through the motions of my tests and check ups. However, soon I would find out the truth about what had led to such an extensive surgery and recovery. After one of my check ups, my father and I preceded to the hallway of the huge medical building that my doctor’s office was located in. It was there that my father broke the news to me that I had actually had cancer. He told me everything. The cancer was what he called the “good” kind, and was slow growing. He also told me that it was a very rare form of cancer, and that not many children ever got it. He continued to tell me that the doctor had removed forty percent of my liver, and that the liver is the only organ that regenerates itself. He told me that we were lucky that it was slow growing and that it didn’t do much harm and was easy to cure. All the tests, all the check ups they were searching for any possible remnants of that cancer. This really hit it home for me and allowed me to fully understand what had happened. I understood my journey, my parents stress, their emotions, and their mental suffering. I understood their love for me, and their generosity. My understanding was complete.

            Looking back on this I see that I have learned many things because of it. I learned my mortality, and understood that I am not invincible. I learned to take more time for the things that matter most to me. I paid more attention to what is given to me and found a new definition for family and friendship. When thinking about the day I learned I had to have surgery and looking back on when I was taken in for preparation, all I can remember is being as calm ever just willing to let what would happen, happen. Perhaps I should try to be like that a little more now, after all I am a college student, and the last thing I need is extra stress.