The strange thing about cancer is it doesn’t hit you right away. It took a solid six months for the reality of my new life to settle in. The next series of posts can most pointedly be described as going through the motions. I didn’t understand the significance of how my life would change until years later. Let me start at the beginning.
The drive from Northern California to Malibu would be one I’d never forget. Collegiately seasoned, I packed the car with the anticipation of the upcoming volleyball season. Bitter my summer would always be shorter than my classmates, I anxiously set out to begin the fall semester – new crushes, classes, and the drive to be a part of one of the best volleyball teams in the nation. After all, we’d been 4th in the nation the year prior. I was ready to begin my sophomore season at Pepperdine by putting all my energy into volleyball and school.
While I was driving, I found a bump on my neck. I showed my mother, who happens to be a former nurse. The moment she put her hand on my throat, felt the hard lump, and I saw the overwhelming look of concern on her face, I knew a trip to the doctor would shortly ensue. Luckily, volleyball physicals were the next day. Concern mounted when I wasn’t cleared and was immediately referred to the Lead Surgeon of Head & Neck at UCLA.
The next two weeks was a blur of tests. I continued to live like whatever was going on in my neck would subside. Doctors can fix everything. Bad things only happen to people when they get old. And cancer certainly wouldn’t happen to me – my childhood had already been plagued when my best friend beat leukemia by age 7. At least these were the falsities I repeatedly told myself, while I continued through double days, fitting in doctors’ appointments as my busy NCAA schedule would allow.
Biopsies are not fun. As someone who’s had more than five, I can say that with confidence. Biopsies are not fun. With my father and mother’s hands in each of mine, I endured the extraordinarily thick needle, and prayed that would be the worst of it. I told the doctor, “Just call my cell when we know the results. I’m in the middle of double days, so my schedule is pretty tight.” He called me a few days later, and told me I needed to come in. “Can’t you just tell me now? I’d hate to come all the way to LA just for you to tell me what’s going on when you already know.” He said, he’d prefer if I saw him in person. Red flag.
The room was sterile, and I anxious. I wanted to get the rendezvous over with; I had to get back to practice. I don’t remember the first five minutes of the conversation. It was all fluff to the nail that was about to pierce my consciousness. Now this part I remember vividly. His sad eyes portrayed sympathy, “It’s cancer, so we’re going to do surgery ASAP. We don’t know how fast it’s growing, so we need to get in there.” “Wait, so I have cancer?” “Yes.”
The words and processes that ensued after that fell upon deaf ears. I have cancer. That’s all I need to know.
I joined my best friend. Welcome to the cancer club.