StLSass

365 Days of Writing – Day 40: I shouldn’t be alive…

Posted on: March 8, 2017

Part 1: The What…

At the age of 14 I broke my foot playing volleyball. The doctors put me in a walking boot that I stayed in for about 6 months. When I got out of the boot, it left me with a very slight limp, but I was a kid, and I didn’t know better so I figured it was just because my foot still wasn’t totally healed. Slowly my limp got slightly more and more painful though. Until one night when I was at a high school homecoming dance and the Cupid Shuffle came on. Anyone familiar with that song, may be aware of a move in the song called The Charlie Brown, where you jump forward on one leg, and backwards on the other leg. Well that night during the Charlie Brown I jumped forward on my gimpy leg, and all I remember is collapsing to the ground with an intense pain in my hip when I did, and I was in too much pain to walk again that night.

The next day my dad help me limp into my chiropractors office where we had them take X-Rays… it didn’t take long for them to let us know that something was very wrong. A couple more doctors and X-rays later, my dad and I were informed that my femur had actually slipped up the ball in my hip. They said it was a combination of genetics and possibly the six month stint in the walking boot that had set the whole thing off. Where it had shifted to though, wasn’t somewhere that they could just move it back to its original place, as that would end up damaging too many nerves. So they let us know they were going to go in and put a screw in through the femur into the ball… so my leg wouldn’t fall off. I have to admit when they first told us this, my dad and I couldn’t help but laugh, mostly so I wouldn’t cry, but also at the thought of my leg just haphazardly falling off one day, lol. Looking back I’m so thankful I had my dad’s sense of humor to get me through those bad news moments. My leg was falling off though, and every movement was making it worse, so they scheduled me for immediate surgery… that was the first time I got screwed (literally, screw in my leg, lol).

Surgery went well, however, it wasn’t very long after I was out that I realized the new found placement of my femur, was quite a problem. The doctors weren’t sure how it would end up, but when all was said and done, my right leg stuck out to the side all wonkity like. So another surgery was scheduled. This time they were going to go in and cut my femur mid way, and turn it. So even though my hip was all wonkity, my femur, knee, and the rest of my leg was straight. Back to being a normal kid again… or so I thought.

As all of this happened across my teenage growing years, the doctors quickly picked up on another problem I was going to face. They had cut into the growth plate in my right leg with the original surgery, which had stopped my right leg from growing. My left leg however, had continued to grow. So at 16 and a half they concluded that my growth spurts were over. If I stood on my left leg I was 6’2″, if I stood on my right leg, I was 6′. Another surgery was scheduled. This time they were going to go into my left leg to cut two inches out of my femur and then plate it back together.

A day after I got out of surgery that time, I was up and moving around, when I noticed what seemed to be a popping sound coming from my left leg. It didn’t hurt, but it just didn’t feel right. My doctors took X-rays to see what was going on. Turns out, one of the screws they had put in place was sticking out wrong. The doctors were baffled as to how this could have happened, but regardless this meant the surgery was going to have to be redone. So a few days after that surgery, they went in and did it again.

At this point, I had been in the hospital for over a week, mostly on bed rest, and I had undergone two major surgeries. It wasn’t long after my second surgery that things started to go very wrong. First I developed a fever. They thought maybe I had gotten an infection somewhere. They did all kinds of tests, but there was no infection to be found. My conditioned continued to get worse, and I started getting very sick. I was never told this at the time, but doctors at one point told my parents that my kidneys were shutting down, and that they had about 24 hours to figure out what was wrong before I could potentially go past the point of no return. Looking back, I don’t know how my parents continued to keep such a brave face for me throughout the whole ordeal. I had no idea how close I was to death’s door.

Luckily, within a few hours, an MRI scan of the lower half of my body came back, and doctors finally realized what was going on. It was not an infection. The scan showed a large mass in my abdomen. It was a tumor, a very big one, the weight of which was crushing the blood flow to my kidneys and shutting them down because I had been on bed rest for such a prolonged period of time. The short term fix was simple, they had me roll on my side so it wasn’t crushing the blood flow any more. It worked, my kidneys started working again… I wasn’t going to die. The long term fix wasn’t as clear, but we knew it included another surgery.

After two surgeries and a sickness that left me close to death’s door though, I wasn’t exactly in any kind of shape to be operated on again so soon. In the mean time, I spent a week recovering, gaining my strength, and getting pumped full of cancer medicines. They didn’t know anything about my tumor, but the mass was quite large, so they started me on all kinds of medications. These medications dulled my taste buds, so everything I ate tasted like ash in my mouth, so I quickly lost my appetite. However, they needed me to eat to get better, so one day, unbeknownst to me and my parents, they also slipped in the THC pill with my meds. I ordered everything on the menu that night. I was quite disappointed when it all got there and everything still tasted like ash, but still I ate a lot regardless. Medical grade munchies are no joke.

Finally it was time for the surgery. It went well. The doctors had removed a 10lb tumor along with my left ovary, as the tumor was growing in my ovary. They tested all sites around the tumor and the ovary and it appeared that the mass was entirely contained though. Aside from waking up with the worst gas pains in my life from air that had gotten trapped during surgery, I was fine. Mostly, I was just excited to be off the ash medications and taste food again.

Now for whatever reason, in my mind, it never quite occurred to me that the tumor could be malignant, I just assumed it was benign… because well, it had to be. It wasn’t until a day after my surgery when my best friend was visiting me, and she asked if the tumor was benign, and I started to say yes, when I realized that no one had actually said that to me yet. I remember both of my parents exchanging a glance in that moment, and breaking in with the news… it wasn’t benign, it was malignant.

It was quite weird realizing that I did in fact have cancer, but that the surgery, and the removal of the tumor and my ovary had hopefully removed it. The doctors were still running tests to be sure, but it appeared that I was quite possibly the luckiest cancer patient there ever was.

A few days later we learned an even more unusual fact. My tumor was a type of pancreatic cancer that had grown on my ovary. My pancreas was fine. The doctors told us this phenomenon had never been seen before, and with my consent, they wanted to send it off to several medical universities for study. My name would never be referenced with it, but it was weird to know that I was now in some medical books theoretically.

I had gone in for the original shortening procedure at the beginning of my Christmas school break, and after spending Christmas, and New Years Eve in the hospital, coupled with three surgeries, and one rare tumor anomaly later… I got to go home three days before my 18th birthday. I had lost 22 lbs in the hospital. I still remember pictures from that birthday. My face was gaunt, I was skin and bones, and my skin seemed almost translucent, but my smile was big and bright as I was more alive than ever.

Now, I didn’t mention this, but in high school volleyball was my life. I played club volleyball, on top of high school ball, I attended Mizzou summer volleyball camps starting in 8th grade, and played rec leagues any chance I could. I had no doubt in my mind I would get a volleyball scholarship for college, and of course I had dreams to go pro. When everything happened with my legs, it left me absolutely devastated that my volleyball career was effectively over. Nothing else mattered in my life, and for the first two years while I was going through surgeries, not much really took away the sting of that blow. I didn’t really admit it to many people, but I felt a lot of resentment and anger that I would never get the chance to live up to my full volleyball potential.

However, it did not take long after the discovery of my tumor that I began to realize that the surgeries I so greatly resented… had in fact just saved my life. Fate took me on a journey with every one of those surgeries to get me to the last one… which is where God stepped in and miraculously pushed that screw out of place… even the doctors were baffled at how it could have happened. Looking back though, its all very clear to me. A stroke of fate, a long journey, and a miracle from God himself resulted in the amazing gift that was my life. I didn’t have any resentment or anger again after that.

Later that year I went off to college, a normal, healthy, and very grateful young woman.

life-is-a-gift

Check out Part Two: The Why…. to find out the incredible story I discovered later in life as to why all of this happened…

– Christine

 

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3 Responses to "365 Days of Writing – Day 40: I shouldn’t be alive…"

[…] 365 Days of Writing – Day 40: I shouldn’t be alive… […]

[…] are plated together, full of metal rods, and uneven. (Which if you want to read about you can do so here.) It’s fine, I can walk, I can do everything I want to do at this point in life, however, my […]

[…] never got senior pictures when I was in high school. With everything going on with my legs and cancer, I was never quite in a glorified state that I wanted to memorialize during my youth. My […]

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