I have scars on my body that will always remind me of a worst experience of my life. That day was November 1st, 1999 and it was the day I was told I have leukemia again. I was feeling terrible for a couple of days, and my body hurt to even be touched. I could not keep food or liquid down without throwing up. I remember feeling like I wished I was dead so that the pain would stop, not realizing that the pain was only going to get worse during the next couple of weeks.
I was feeling like this when I was four and the first time that the doctors had told me that I officially have cancer.
This reminds me of the book I read when I was in tenth grade called, My Sister’s Keeper and the one sister, Kate who was diagnosed with cancer when she was two and is going through chemo all her life (Picoult).
My mom decided to take me to the doctor after I could not tolerate my body being touched and constantly throwing up. I remember she told me to try not to scare the children in the pediatrician’s office when I arrived because I moaned so badly in pain. The doctor sent me for tests to rule out many things including chicken pox. The next day, the doctor’s office called and stated I was to go the emergency room.
The tests had shown I was dehydrated, and I needed to get intervenous fluids in my body and to have a CT scan performed to help the doctors determine where the pain was coming from.
The emergency room was exciting on Halloween night, but unfortunately I was in no mood for anything except feeling better. The pain began to subside with the help from morphine every four hours. The pediatrician asked to speak to my mom in the hallway. Unbeknownst to me, the doctor was telling her the tests had shown I had leukemia, and I needed to be sent to Albany Medical Center.
My mother chose not to tell me the diagnosis and just said there was an infection in my blood. I had seen she was crying when she walked back into the room and realized she was not telling me the whole story. The ambulance arrived and I was sent to Albany Med. The ride made me so sick to my stomach being on a stretcher riding backwards. I had so many thoughts in my head, “what kind of infection do I have and will I get better? ” I arrived to the hospital with my mom by my side and was immediately admitted to the pediatric wing. I needed to have more blood taken and another CT scan completed.
I met Dr. Kenwar, who specialized in pediatric oncology, and he explained that my tests had shown I had leukemia. I was angry with my mom for not telling me the truth and scared about what was going to happen to me. I was thinking I was fine last week as the doctor spoke to me and my family. The leukemia was in the early stages. I could just see myself going through the chemotherapy again and losing my hair. I can vividly remember the morning before school started; I woke up and ran my hands though my hair and a huge portion of my hair came out.
I ran to my mom’s room and woke her up and she started crying and was like, “this is the start of the chemo, you are a strong girl and you are going to get through it. You will get the best wig that they have in all of the stores. ” My mom and dad never left my side during the next couple of days. I was poked and prodded on every part of my body. My pain was controlled through a morphine pump which allowed me to receive pain medication every twenty minutes. My teachers came to visit me and my friends sent me get well wishes.
I cried when I was alone and at times felt I could not fight this battle. When I felt this way, I would visit the babies on the wing that were also diagnosed with cancer. They were so tiny and frail and didn’t understand the battle they were fighting. Then, the day came when it got worse. I was scheduled for bone marrow procedure and needed general anesthesia. This was another similarity between Kate and I with the cancer (Picoult). After the procedure, I spent the whole day throwing up in the toilet bowl with my IV pole attached to my arm.
I was only allowed to lie on my left side due to the incision. That evening the doctors appeared in my room again. I needed to go back into surgery and needed to receive anesthesia again. I had approximately two liters of fluid in my stomach and needed to have the fluid removed along with my appendix as soon as possible. The thought of throwing up again made me cry. Never in my life have I cried so much. I knew I had to keep fighting this battle, but my thoughts were, “what could possible be next? I prayed to God all the time to give me the strength to get though this. My whole family was with me through it all and I knew I was loved when I closed my eyes for the surgery. I was unable to have the belly button incision because of my age; I received a Madeline scar, as I called it, from the character in the children books. I now had an incision on the front and back of my right side of my abdomen. Forever would I remember the agony of this experience. The doctors recommended my mom go home and get some rest, and my grandmother agreed to spend the night with me.
I don’t remember much of the next couple of days because I was heavily sedated. As I started to awake and everything was bothering me. It had been ten days since I was able to eat anything, and I had lost twelve pounds. I wanted to go home and sleep in my bed. I missed my friends and my body continued to hurt. The pain was different now; my body didn’t hurt except where the incisions were located. Finally after four weeks, Dr. Sills, the chief of pediatric oncology and hematology, came into my room and told me my body had begun to make baby white blood cells.
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I was not sure what that meant, but my mom hugged the doctor and began to cry. Dr. Sills explained to me that my body was not making any white or red blood cells for the last six weeks, and now I seemed to be on the road to recovery. I was in remission. My body responded to the treatment immediately. I still needed to stay in the hospital a little bit longer, but I could start planning on returning home. I was not able to attend school for another month or two and I could not be around large crowds of people.
My body will never be the same even without the scars but I was very fortunate. My immune system is considered compromised. I have blood tested every two months, and I have had a couple of scares but they turned out to be nothing big. The red and white blood cell counts were off and the doctor repeated the test four days later and the blood work improved. The expression “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger” is true. I would not wish the past experience on my worst enemy. I never thought I had the strength to fight as hard as I did.
I never want to experience that pain again. I was so scared that I would never see myself graduating from high school with my friends or attend college. I have tried not to take life for granted and enjoy the pleasures that everyday brings. I decided that after this experience, I am attending college to become a nurse or possibly a nurse practitioner and give back to someone in need the same experience and compassion I received from the doctors and nurses who took care of me. Maybe I can make a difference in someone’s life too, just like Anna did for her sister.