THE DEATH SENTENCE
Another year has come and gone. Yes, most people start their New Year in January; some cultures have other time tables for their ‘New Years.’ Mine start every April because 14 years ago I was given a death sentence…
Every year about this time I get nostalgic. Not for the sounds of spring, although I’ve waited through a long winter (since October for that), not for life to begin again, although that too has happened. You see, 14 years ago I wasn’t feeling very well. I couldn’t BREATHE. I made a doctor’s appointment for two days after I would return from a business trip. On the way to the doctor’s appointment, I ran out of gas. These were the days that not everyone had a cell phone so I missed my appointment and when I finally made it to a phone, they said the doctor wasn’t available for two weeks. Given the way I was feeling, that was too long! I asked if there was anything else we could do. Since the Nurse Practitioner was available, I eagerly grasped at that idea.
I saw the Nurse Practitioner on Wednesday. On Thursday I had x-rays, a lot of them, intensive ones. On Friday, they were to do a biopsy of my neck, instead they removed all the lymph nodes on the right side of my neck. I know, I was awake for this procedure, anestheticized so I wouldn’t move, but awake and had to talk so they wouldn’t cut into my vocal chords by mistake. I could however see everything in the shine of the metal holding the lights above me. Watching them cut and pull out the lumps that constituted my lymph nodes was gross, the sensation made it worse.
The following week it was confirmed, I had Lymphoma – Cancer. It was pretty extensive in the upper part of my body. I had it on both sides of my neck, a 10cm (4 inch) tumor over my heart and lung, and another tumor (no size was mentioned) under my arm. I was told if I did NOTHING that I had 4-5 months to LIVE. My sons were 10 & 12 at the time and we went to my mother’s funeral from cancer in January. She’d been their second parent so the fear in all three of us was real.
Normal Chemotherapy takes twelve months or more. We didn’t have the time. My doctor had heard of an experiment going on in Stanford up by Palo Alto and nearby San Francisco. It was called The Stanford Five Protocol. One week you got three poisons, one week you got two. I didn’t even hesitate, I said, let’s go for it. Just wanted to make sure I got the medicine and not a placebo or something. He said he’d make sure I got the meds, I don’t know how he did it but I was soon hooked up to an I.V. that made my veins burn with cold.
Within two weeks my waist length hair was falling out and I shaved it off, so much of our confidence is tied into our appearance and I no longer cared . Every week for Nine weeks I went in, by myself, sometimes with my Golden Retriever – Sophie in the car with me. I thought I’d be done and out the door after that 9th week. Nope, I was told they were going to do a full TWELVE weeks. THAT was DEPRESSING. Those last couple of weeks were the HARDEST to go in and have that poison pumped in my now hiding veins. Essentially I took twelve MONTHS of chemotherapy but in twelve WEEKS.
For someone who was given such a prognosis of 4-5 months, reflecting on that occasion is an annual event. I’m here, it’s been 14 YEARS and I’m still kicking. Yes the residual pains SUCK as I will ache FOREVER, the joints hurt like hell and I’m a bit more fragile than I used to be, but the point is…I’m HERE. I have since broken bones, sprained things, and watched my poor body age BUT…
None of my books would have been written, I wouldn’t have seen some of the things I have seen, and I wouldn’t have had a lot of the blessings I have been fortunate enough to experience…but I am HERE, I am QUEER, and I am ALIVE and LIVING! Every day is a blessing, and while I’m certain I’m living on ‘borrowed’ time, I’m LIVING!
Original Post: Do you believe in Miracles?