A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Cancer

For most of my life, I associated the phrase “Everything happens for a reason,” with disappointment.  Oh, you didn’t get the happy meal toy you wanted?  Well, everything happens for a reason.  Your fish all died because your mom forgot to turn on their tank oxygenator.  Sure that happened for a reason.  You’re sitting at home on a Saturday night because no one likes you?  Don’t worry, its part of a bigger purpose.  This phrase has become our way of coping with the unsurmountable odds stacked against us.  Or at least that’s what I had come to believe.

I was working at a little kitchen appliance store when, while preparing our stockroom for an inventory, was knocked from a ladder by a rogue light fixture.  The light fixture hit my head and when I fell, I definitely remember being pretty quiet at first.  Until the shock of what had just happened set in, that is.  I started to yell for help, but this was the kind of basement stock room where no one hears you scream, especially after an eleven hour shift.  Eventually I gave up on anyone coming and slowly lifted myself from the ground.

My boss, who was in the stockroom, but just out of reach on account of listening to Aqua at a volume level that suggested he was not as embarrassed about listening to them as he should have been.  I told him of my fall and the response I got was less than lackluster.  “Oh, that sucks.”  Indeed,  it did ‘suck.’  I continued working.

But not long after I started to feel dizzy, slurring words and not feeling to great.  I ended my evening at home where I could not form coherent sentences or walk in a straight line.  The next morning, I dragged myself to the hospital where it was identified that I had a concussion and that my skull had been dented.  There was a dent in my skull.  I say this again because upon telling my mother, I was asked to explain it.  My response went something like this.

Mom:  What do you mean, a dent?

 Me: I mean a literal dent.

 Mom:  literal dent?

 Me: Pick up an empty soda can.

 Mom: Kay.

 Me:  Squeeze it.

 Mom: Uh-huh.

 Me:  Imagine that’s my brain.

 Mom: …OH MY GOD!

Concussion illustration

I was told I would survive, obviously, but that I should take it slow and not do anything to strenuous.  A month later, I decided that one of the less strenuous things I was allowed to do was to go on a three day ski and snowboard trip with my boyfriend and his friends.  In retrospect, this might be considered a poor choice, but remember about the things and the way they happen and that there are reasons?

While I had been snowboarding before and felt comfortable with it, I wanted to give skiing a go.  This went as poorly as you can imagine.  I slipped and slid and fell and crashed for the entire duration of two days.  By day three, I had had my fill.  I took up a snowboard and went to the top of a long hill.  Things were going well.  I was back to doing what I loved.  No more pain and hurting.

Skiing VS Snowboarding

However, the dizziness and lack of balance had not fully had time to heal and coming over a larger hill I crashed the kind of crash you see on America’s Funniest Home Videos.  The kind of crash that is only funny because you know just how very painful it is.  I hit the ground on my chest, spun over my head and slid down the remainder of the hill as if friction was no longer a thing.  When I finally stopped, it took a moment for me to stand and make sure nothing was broken.  My chest hurt but I felt I was okay.  I finished the hill and even did a couple more runs.

Everything was not okay.

Back home, I awoke the following day to a throbbing pain in my chest.  After a brief stint at work that culminated in a simple sneeze nearly crippling me, I headed to the doctor to find out that my lung had indeed been broken by the fall and that my doctor did not think it wise that I had gone snowboarding so close to a concussive injury.  Hindsight doctor.  Hindsight.

The thing about a broken rib is that modern medicine is nearly useless.  You are informed to take it easy and to take several deep breaths a day in order to avoid pneumonia.  That’s right, the best thing you can do for a broken rib is BREATHE.

I was starting to feel better when, after my last visit to the doctor for the injury I was called concerning something that had turned up on my final x-ray.  I returned to the doctor yet again on the basis of “Just to be on the safe side.”  We were not on the safe side.  There, growing on the bottom of my lung was a small tumor about the size of a nickel.

tumor time

People in these situations are advised to stay calm.  “It could be anything,” the doctor will say, but the trouble with being a creative writer is that the word ‘anything’ leads to an onslaught of endless thoughts and speculations.  A dinosaur egg? Cancer? A piece of undigested meat? Cancer?  A smudge on the screen? Cancer? Cancer? Cancer?  It’s probably cancer.  Did I mention Cancer?  Panic set in and before a biopsy was even done I was telling my friends the worst case scenario and planning the eulogy that someone would need to volunteer to read.

Yet within this panic, one thing was clear:  I would not tell  my mother.  She had been through a lot the past year and the thought of telling her about my probably-cancer-lung-absys seemed cruel, like kicking a puppy.

Within a week I was headed to surgery to take out what had turned into a black hole of death and hate in my mind.  It was quick and came with the added bonus of getting to go home still drugged up.  I’m extra fun when drugged up.  When I was younger I went into a Vicadin induced coma for a week after having my wisdom teeth out.  But that’s a story for another day.  It was soon determined that the tumor was a type 1A Cancerous tumor.  For those of you not in the cancer know, that is the best case scenario, other than, you know, not having a tumor in the first place.  My treatment was followed by a short stint of radiation to my lung in order to keep out the cancer villains impeding my Metropolis of a lung.  Almost as soon as it started, the cancer was over and I was going to be fine.

The truth of the matter is that when it rains it pours and sometimes it’s easy to look at life and say, “Why me?  Why today? Why this?  Why now?”  I’d like to tell you to stay positive when life gives you lemons, but I can honestly say that I didn’t.  Not the entire time anyway.  Yet when I think about the crappy job, which I have since left, that induced a concussion, and the ski trip, which induced a broken bone, and the phone call that made me die a little on the inside, I can honestly claim one thing.  There is a slight chance that things do happen for a reason, and if you can find a time amidst the panic and heart ache and crying on the floor at 2 AM to remind yourself of this, it just might help.  If only for a momen

Categories: Blog

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