Cancer. Just a word, right? It is until it creeps slowly into your life, prepared to take control of your life. I remember vividly, when it started showing up in my life; the first time was when my grandparents had either lung, breast or skin cancer. Watching them die a little more each day was earth shattering enough, but the first time the “C” word appears and is pointing directly at you, well that’s a day no one can ever forget.
I remember it like it was yesterday. Mom asked what was on my neck. I remember thinking what in the world is she talking about. Sure I had a “little” bump on my neck, but that’s always been there, thinking what was the big deal? Mom being, well…Mom, she panicked and rushed to the nearest phone to call the doctor for an appointment. Still not understanding what the big deal was, I did not think much of it, until the next week when the appointment came. The doctor’s cold hands immediately went to my neck; he said so bluntly that I needed to be tested to see if it was cancer. Let’s freeze for a second: Up until this point cancer to me was just another way to say you were dying. But when someone like a doctor says something so alarming, the word cancer is no longer a word; it was almost as bad as any other “bad word.” Let’s just say I did not take the news too well.
Okay, so I did not take the news at all! I was completely in shock. The first thought was “I do NOT like this doctor.” Then came the “Okay Katie, it’s no big deal; it is only cancer; it can only kill you.” However, the last thought was, “Tested? That means blood, which means needles; nope, not doing it.” To understand this fear that I have, you have to be made aware that still to this day I have to be on heavy medication even to get near the needles.
Getting pulled out of my thoughts, when the nurse walked through the door and saying very nicely that I needed to follow her. Walking with my head down, in shame of my fear and knowing what was coming next, I was already in tears before I was even seated in those awful chairs. I remember watching the needle coming closer and closer, Mom yelling for me to close my eyes, but before it touched my skin, I closed my eyes tightly. It seemed like the blood would never come. I knew if I looked in a mirror, my face would be as pale as snow. When the torture was finally done, I asked the doctor, wishing for the answer to be the one less painful, if that was all I had to do. I remember his face looking down at me, with sorrow, and he said I still needed to do a catscan. I looked to the ground and walked back, while Mom was scheduling an appointment for that. Those three months waiting for that appointment, were pure agony, waiting for the unknown, still not understanding what exactly what a “catscan” was.
I remember that day when I was waiting in that waiting room for two hours to go back to do this thing called a catscan- the whole time hoping that it was going to be painless. A man called my name and took me to the back, gave me this gown, which looked more like a cloth, and told me to change into that. Still not comprehending what is going on, I did so. He then took me to this room where Mom is sitting and filling out paperwork. He looked at me and handed me a pen and told me that I had to sign a document saying something about IV’s. Freeze for a second: I know what IV’s are; they consist of a needle and a tube staying in my arm., um…NEEDLE!
I remember giving this man the blankest of stares, wishing he was joking. I slowly signed my name, starting to tear up again. While he put the IV in me, I stared at the catscan. I can still vividly remember that it was quite large with a big hole in the center that had a table. The whole time I was staring all I heard coming from the man was blah, blah, you’re going to taste nickel in your mouth, blah, blah, lay still. I do not even remember lying down. I looked up and saw nothing but blurs, it turned out he had taken off my glasses. I remember those moments while I was just lying there, tasting that horrid taste of nickel, thinking of the “what if” I really did have cancer. Would my friends and family miss me? What would I be leaving behind? What if I did not want to die yet; did I have a choice? Mom pulled me out of my stupid thoughts by handing my glasses back to me. I remember driving home, praying to whatever God that would listen, praying more then I ever have before, hoping that it was a fluke and I do not have the “C” word.
One of the Gods heard me that day because walking to the answering machine two weeks later, there was the voice of the doctor saying there is some kind of mass on my neck, but not cancer and asked if we could call him back. I remember sitting in the chair, looking at the machine that just told me that I had a second chance. Later that night Mom called the doctor, and he told us the not so good news. He said that if the tumor ever grows larger, moves or anything else abnormal like bruises started showing up unexplained, I would need to come back in for more test. What he means is that I was out of the woods that time, but that someday that lump could become the “C” word When the “C” word comes up into conversations I start panicking, and my hand finds it’s way to my neck. I will often walk out of the room, or just sit there extremely quite, while my mind is racing of the “what if’s.” This fear will be with me the rest of my life, because knowing that this tumor at anytime can become cancerous, is a horrid thought, that can scare anyone.. I am filled with fear every time I find a bruise, and I cannot remember where I got it from. I am filled with fear every time I look at my neck, thinking my eyes are playing tricks on me, making sure it did not grow. I am filled with memories of my eighth grade year, waiting to hear if my, “What If’s” would become my life.